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Republican lawmakers force LGBTQ exhibit display out of Missouri Capitol

Openly Out Missouri State Senator Razer; “The exhibit’s removal was proof discrimination is alive in Jefferson City.”



Missouri State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: The State of Missouri)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A display curated by students from the University of Missouri at Kansas City celebrating LGBTQ history was removed from the Missouri State Museum on the first floor of the state capitol building, after complaints from a legislative staffer to a state Republican lawmaker.

The exhibit, titled “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights” apparently offended Uriah Stark, a Legislator Assistant for Republican Representative Mitch Boggs (District 157) in the Missouri House of Representatives, who in addition to complaining to his boss, Tuesday night he complained in a Facebook post on his personal page: 

Update: To clarify, the Missouri State Museum, which is under the Department of Natural Resources, is responsible for allowing this. Original: So is there any good reason that our taxpayer funded museum is pushing the LGBT agenda in our state capitol? These are literally in-your-face banners that you can’t walk through the museum without seeing… and they’re scheduled to be there through December.

Screenshot from Facebook

On Wednesday Stark triumphantly announced that the museum had removed the exhibit, which had only been publicly displayed for 4 days at the point it was removed. The exhibit was scheduled to run for 12 weeks:

Update on pro LGBT “history” exhibit. Thanks to the efforts of several of our great elected officials, the exhibit has been removed from the Missouri State Museum! To God be the glory! Shoutout to Rep. Ann Kelley and Rep. Brian Seitz for taking the bull by the horns! I also spoke with multiple other elected officials who were ready and willing to take action, thank you all for standing for traditional family values!

Screenshot from Facebook

The Kansas City Star, which first broke the story, reported Thursday that the exhibit consisted of banners, curated by UMKC history students, that recount the activism of the local LGBT community, including a focus on 1950s gay rights groups known as homophile organizations.

It had gone up just four days ago State Senator Greg Razer, a Kansas City Democrat and the only openly gay member of the Senate told the Star. In an email response to inquiries about the exhibit’s removal by the Star, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources Connie Patterson responded saying only that “the display has been moved from the Capitol.” She did not say why or who made the decision.

The UMKC exhibit had been on display around Kansas City in past years before making it to the Missouri State Museum. Last Friday, UMKC’s Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America posted on Facebook cheering its installation at the capitol. The students who curated the exhibit used the archive’s collections.

“We are absolutely thrilled that our colleagues at the Museum have mounted the exhibit, which will be on display for Capitol visitors and state legislators through the end of the year,” the post read.

Screenshot from Facebook

Responding to the exhibit’s removal, state Senator Razer told the Star he was furious to find out about its removal and said he questioned whether LGBT Missourians are welcome in state parks.

“I think it is the epitome of cancel culture that they just want to cancel my history,” he said. “I think it shows a degree of bigotry and I don’t use that word lightly.”

The newspaper noted that Razer has pushed for the legislature to adopt a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment and other private sector activities. The proposal has not made it to passage after more than two decades. Razer said the exhibit’s removal was proof discrimination is alive in Jefferson City.

“Do you really think the people that brought down that exhibit are going to rent me a house? We have seen discrimination under our own roof,” he said.

“The story that that exhibit told is the story of how I get to stand on the Senate floor in the first place. Thirty years ago there wouldn’t be an openly gay man in the state Senate.”



ACLU sues Mo. school district for denying trans student access to bathroom

Lawsuit alleges violations of the state’s constitution and Human Rights Act



Platte County High School in Missouri (Screen capture YouTube/KCTV5)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit against Platte County School District for allegedly denying a transgender former student access to bathrooms matching her gender identity, the group announced on Tuesday.

The complaint argues the district’s policies and practices violated provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the state’s constitution.

“Forcing transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex designated at birth is not only discrimination but dangerous and causes serious harm to Missouri’s youth,” said Gillian Wilcox, deputy director of litigation at the ACLU of Missouri, in a press release announcing the move.

The student “lives as a female and was living as a female when she was denied the use of the girls’ restroom at her school,” and received “a series of escalating punishments ranging from verbal warnings to out-of-school suspension” for noncompliance with the policy, according to the press release.

When she began using the boys’ restroom after serving a suspension, the student was harassed and threatened with rape, the ACLU of Missouri said. Suffering anxiety and depression, she was unable to return to school and finished her freshman year virtually.

The Movement Advancement Projects tracks laws across the country restricting trans people’s access to restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identities. These range from statutes defining “sex” in ways that may impact access to Florida’s law that criminalizes the use of “bathrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity in all schools, colleges and government-owned buildings and spaces.”

The ACLU of Missouri is challenging efforts to ban gender affirming care for minors through implementation of Senate Bill 49 and the state attorney general’s attempt to use consumer protection laws for this purpose, joined in litigation by Lambda Legal and the law firm Bryan Cave.

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Missouri sends two anti-trans bills to governor’s desk

Legislation targets healthcare access and school sports



The Republican-controlled Missouri legislature on Wednesday sent bills to the state’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson that will restrict transgender residents’ access to healthcare and prohibit them from participating in school sports.

“It’s an incredibly devastating day for transgender Missourians, for families raising transgender youth, and for all of Missouri,” said Shira Berkowitz, senior public policy director for PROMO Missouri, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, in a video shared on Twitter.

According to PROMO, Senate Bill 39 will ban “all transgender student athletes from kindergarten through college from being able to play sports on sanctioned school teams that align with their gender identity.”

The law would apply to public, private and charter schools, which risk losing state funding for noncompliance.

SB 49, meanwhile, “bans gender affirming surgery for anyone under 18,” along with “access to transgender affirming care for minors who are not already on a prescribed path for healthcare.”

Additionally, under the law,”Medicaid will no longer be able to cover gender affirming healthcare for children or adults” and “people who are incarcerated will no longer have access to any gender affirming care while they are in state custody.”

Saint Louis Rabbi Daniel Bogard, who is raising a trans son and has been active in advocacy over the state’s anti-trans legislation, condemned the move in a tweet Wednesday.

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Missouri rabbi says anti-trans policies threaten his children

‘We desperately, desperately want to stay here’



Rabbi Daniel Bogard (Photo courtesy Daniel Bogard)

Last month, the office of Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey temporarily removed its online form for members of the public to lodge “a complaint or concern about gender transition intervention” they may have “experienced or observed.”

Bailey had just issued an emergency rule proscribing gender affirming care in the state for minors as well as adults in Missouri, the most extreme restrictions on healthcare for transgender people in any state.

Rabbi Daniel Bogard hesitated, at first, when the Washington Blade called for his reaction. “I never know what language to use.”

As a faith leader with multi-generational ties to St. Louis and its tight-knit Jewish community who is living in the home built by his grandfather, Bogard never imagined having to consider fleeing the state.

“My parents are here. My brother is here. We desperately, desperately want to stay here,” he told the Blade.

Bogard said because his trans son is just nine, the only gender affirming care he needs is haircuts and boys’ clothes. Still, he said, “the thing I really wish people understood is that what I’m really scared of is the government coming to my door to take away my child for following the best advice of doctors and therapists and professionals.”

So, it can be hard to find the right language.

“I’m a rabbi. So, I don’t say this lightly: This is what it must have been like to be a Jew in 1930 in Europe. It doesn’t feel real, and you can’t believe that it’s actually going to get worse — that they’re going to do the things that they say they’re going to — and then it gets worse.”

Words that come closest to “accurately describing the totality of what’s being pushed in places like Missouri” — like “fascism,” for instance — are exactly those likeliest to be dismissed as hysterical, over-the-top, hyperbole, Bogard said.

Likewise with comparisons between the realities faced by trans Americans today and the treatment of European Jews leading up to the Holocaust, which can be even more difficult for some people to consider seriously on their merits.

“Look,” Bogard said, “I’m a rabbi. So, I don’t say this lightly: This is what it must have been like to be a Jew in 1930 in Europe. It doesn’t feel real, and you can’t believe that it’s actually going to get worse — that they’re going to do the things that they say they’re going to do — and then it gets worse.”

“People don’t get it until they see it — even talking to queer folks and trans folks living in blue enclaves and blue states, they often don’t quite understand the extent of what is happening.”

A more recent analog, Bogard said, might be “the early days of COVID” when people often tended to behave normally, treating others who stocked up on toilet paper and cleared out their desks as paranoid.

The latest move by Bailey, however, should be concerning for everyone. “He had a form to get neighbors to rat out neighbors who are supporting their kids,” Bogard said. “That should terrify anyone who cares about democracy and cares about freedom and cares about religious liberty or individual liberty.”

Trans people in the state have been scrambling. “None of us none of us know we’re hearing,” Bogard said.

“There have been rumors that lifesaving gender affirming care will be available in Illinois, which at least for St. Louis is right across the river. Then we’re hearing from folks who [are] told by these Illinois organizations that unfortunately they believe they’re not going to be able to serve Missouri residents,” Bogard said. “I want to be very careful because these are secondhand things that I’m being told, right, but that’s where people are at.”

We need national Democrats to stand up

Behind the anti-trans policies in Missouri and elsewhere in the country is “this discourse, the demonization of trans people and trans bodies,” Bogard said. The “rhetoric of otherization and rhetoric that being trans is a social contagion, a mental illness,” he said, is going to be fatal. “People are going to die because of this.”

Bogard estimates he has traveled to Jefferson City (“Jeff City”), the state capital, about a dozen times this year “to lobby and to testify and to beg.” He added, “My mom, who has taken COVID very, very seriously, and hasn’t gone out, her first time really going out in public in an unmasked place was [when] she came down to Jeff City to testify this year, to lobby.”

“My grandma, God love her, all of 87 years old, was asking me the other day about wheelchair access — because she’s worried that she wouldn’t be able to walk in the halls of the Capitol to come down and testify for her great-grandson,” Bogard said.

Asked whether he believes the urgency is understood by elected Democrats, Bogard said, “Our Democrats here in Missouri have no power, I mean none, [but] they fight with every ounce they have for our kids.”

There are “so many incredibly heroic Democratic lawmakers who know this is true public service, people who get paid $29,000” per year to be a state representative even though they have no power, Bogard said. He noted his son has a photo of Missouri’s lone openly LGBTQ state senator, Greg Razer, on his desk.

National Democrats, by contrast, often fail to fully understand that protecting trans rights is “the fight of our generation,” more consequential than a wedge issue exploited by Republicans to distract from meaningful policy debate, Bogard said.

The GOP “has chosen the bodies of trans kids to be the front for their war on democracy,” he said, “And we need national Democrats to stand up and do everything that they can.”

‘For as long as there have been Jews, there have always been trans Jews’

“It’s one of the beautiful parts about being a rabbi,” Bogard told the Blade, “is I can see that there are thousands of years of stories about trans Jews — there have always been trans Jews, because as long as there have been Jews there have been trans Jews because being trans is just another way of being human.”

“We have incredible stories from the 1800s of Jews transitioning and being like, radically accepted in the shtetl in Ukraine,” Bogard said. “In 1977, the largest movement in American Judaism came out and endorsed rabbis officiating marriages that involve a trans person.”

He added that the Reform Movement came out in support of officiated conversions of trans people in 1990, and then published “an incredible position paper on human dignity of trans folks” in 2015 that would be “the best religious statement” on the matter if not for the new one released in 2023 “which goes 10 steps further.”

Bogard said anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ hate is closely linked to anti-Semitism. “When it comes to Jeff City, all of the legislators and all of the people testifying in favor of these bills are coming from deeply white Christian nationalist” enclaves.

He added that most — or close to the majority — of those “who are standing up for trans kids in our state capitol are Jews.” So much so that he said St. Louis Episcopal Priest Mike Angell, struck by how many Jewish people were rallied in support of trans Missourians, called on his fellow Christians to “show up.”

Rabbi Daniel Bogard with Pastor Jennifer Dault Harris and Rev. Mike Angell (Photo courtesy Daniel Bogard)
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