JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a pair of historic decisions, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled, on Tuesday, that a case of employment discrimination of a gay man and a case of public accommodations discrimination of a transgender student can proceed as unlawful sex discrimination claims under Missouri’s Human Rights law.


The rulings bring Missouri in line with federal employment law and the legal protections offered in most states. The decision agrees with an earlier decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals in the same case.


In February 2018, ACLU of Missouri filed two amicus briefs – one on behalf of Rene Frost and Harold Lampley’s anti-discrimination charge with the Missouri Human Rights Commission and the other on behalf of R.M.A., a transgender student in the Blue Springs School district whose request for accommodations was denied by the school district. Both cases claim discrimination because of sex.


“Members of the LGBTQ community should enjoy the same protections against sex-based discrimination as everyone else,” said Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri. “Excluding LGBTQ individuals from legal protections was justified by outdated, destructive stereotypes and ignored the lived reality of thousands of people in our state.”


Currently, Missouri’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for other protected categories, including race, sex, and national origin. But this does not explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving too many vulnerable and unprotected against discrimination.


“Discrimination based on gender expression and orientation is rooted in ignorant and incorrect assumptions,” said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Allowing discriminatory policies and laws to stand harms our LGBTQ neighbors. We should all be working toward a more inclusive Missouri – and through legislation like the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act we hope to bring an end to cases like this one and give Missouri’s LGBTQ individuals clear and defined legal protections.”


According to the Williams Institute, more than 160,000 LGBTQ adults in Missouri would benefit from being protected from Missouri nondiscrimination laws like the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) that includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories. MONA has been introduced in the Missouri legislature for 21 years, passing out of the Senate in 2013 and most recently passing out of a House Committee in 2018.


PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, submitted a friend of the court brief in the RMA v. Blue Springs case, which can be viewed here. In it, PROMO argued that Missouri nondiscrimination laws must include protection from discrimination based on sex, in addition to explicitly protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, because gender-based discrimination is a particular barrier for transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students in Missouri, who face threats to their safety and ability to access education due to sex-based discrimination in school.


“We are pleased with the court’s historic decisions to allow these two cases to move forward on the basis of sex discrimination," said Steph Perkins, Executive Director of PROMO. "We hope this sends a message to the Missouri Legislature to clarify our Missouri Human Rights Act for LGBTQ individuals who already face higher rates of gender-based discrimination in their workplaces, homes, and at school. LGBTQ Missourians need to be explicitly protected from discrimination under state law, and we urge them to act now.”


Press Release contributed to this report.