JEFFERSON CITY | Legislation that aims to prevent discrimination against Missourians who lawfully carry a concealed weapon received initial approval from the Missouri House Wednesday.
But in passing the measure, lawmakers dismissed arguments they’ve made for years against extending similar protections to gays and lesbians, said Democratic Rep. Stephen Webber, a Columbia Democrat.
Webber has sponsored legislation revising the definition of discrimination to include unfair treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He said he expects to get a hearing later this month in the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Wanda Brown, a Lincoln Republican who sponsored the concealed weapon bill, said her goal was to protect Second Amendment rights. The bill would make it illegal for a business to discriminate against an individual who has a concealed carry endorsement or uses his or her firearm for lawful purposes
“If you have to work in a rough area or have a third shift job, you should be able to ensure your own safety by legally carrying a firearm,” she said. "We wouldn't stand for giving up our First Amendment rights for a job, so why would we sacrifice our Second Amendment rights?"
The bill does not require an employer to allow an employee to carry a concealed weapon on the business’s premises.
Webber said the main reason he’s heard over the years against offering protections for sexual orientation is that it would hurt Missouri businesses.
“If it wouldn’t hurt Missouri businesses to protect gun owners, then it wouldn’t hurt Missouri businesses to add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes,” Webber said. “Here’s a chance for the General Assembly to be consistent.”
Discrimination against gays and lesbians is not against the law in Missouri, meaning a person can be fired from their job or evicted from their apartment for being gay.
Brown said her bill does not protect a class of people, it protects the Second Amendment.
“Anything we can do to protect the Second Amendment, we should,” she said.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, a Kansas City Democrat, said Missourians can “reasonably conclude that those in the LGBT community should go out and get a concealed carry permit so that they can be protected from discrimination.”
In the Senate, lawmakers began discussion Wednesday afternoon on legislation that would make it more difficult to prove discrimination cases against former employers.
Brown said she's hopeful the House will give give her legislation final approval and send it to the Senate tomorrow.