JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court has sided with LGBTQ people in two decisions this past week.
With one, the court decided that a lawsuit from a transgender student had the right to sue when school officials barred him from using the bathroom that matched his gender identity.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A student known in court documents as R.M.A. sued the Blue Springs School District in October 2015 after administrators would not allow him access to a boy’s locker room and rest room. The student was born a female but has identified as a male since the fourth grade.
A circuit court dismissed the lawsuit, and the case was argued in front of the high court in April.
In a 5-2 majority opinion authored by Judge Paul C. Wilson, the state Supreme Court said that because R.M.A. alleged discrimination based on sex, he should be allowed to prove his case in a lower court.
“R.M.A.’s petition alleges he is a member of a protected class, he was discriminated against in the use of a public accommodation, his status as a member of a protected class was the basis for the discrimination he suffered, and he sustained damages,” the court said. “At this stage of the proceedings, that is all that is required of R.M.A.”
Missouri law does protect against discrimination for sex, but doesn’t specify gender. The Post-Dispatch said dissenting justice Zel M. Fischer noted that.
“The substantive principles of law within the MHRA define the word ‘sex’ as biological sex,” he said. Thus, the lawsuit could only move forward “if it alleges that, as a biological female, R.M.A. was deprived of a public accommodation available to biological males.”
In another case, the court said that two state employees have the right to sue for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The decision reversed a lower court that rule that since Missouri law doesn’t cover sexual orientation, the state human rights commission could close its investigation. Harold Lampley claims he was discriminated against before he didn’t have “stereotypically male behavior” and Rene Frost because of her association with Lampley.
From the Jefferson City News-Tribune:
The Supreme Court ruled: “The Commission had the statutory authority to investigate Lampley’s and Frost’s claims, but the Commission unreasonably and erroneously assumed because Lampley was homosexual, there was no possible sex discrimination claim other than one for sexual orientation.
“Lampley and Frost should have been allowed to demonstrate whether the alleged sexual stereotyping motivated Employer’s alleged discriminatory conduct.
“The Commission had the authority to issue a right-to-sue letter so the trier of fact could then determine whether their claims for sex discrimination were due to sexual stereotyping.”
Civil rights organizations applauded the decision.
Steph Perkins, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, said, “We are pleased with the court’s historic decisions to allow these two cases to move forward on the basis of sex discrimination. 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.”
“Discrimination based on gender expression and orientation is rooted in ignorant and incorrect assumptions,” said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri, about the Lampley case. “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.”