Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, you’re on the right track.
But he also says he’s not sure what role government should play in the debate, so let’s talk do about that, as he says he wants to do.
Five years ago, Parson voted in favor of a bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s a good starting point.
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That legislation didn’t become law, unfortunately. But it does mean something that Parson was one of only nine Republicans who joined Democrats in supporting the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act in 2013.
Here’s the bottom line: Public opinion has shifted dramatically, and the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. LGBT Missourians can still be legally fired, though. Even now, they can be denied housing or kicked out of a restaurant for being gay or transgender — or even being thought to be gay or transgender.
And speaking of the bottom line, this situation isn’t only a moral outrage, but a major economic stumbling block for our state.
You know that Amazon HQ2 that we didn’t get, in either Kansas City or St. Louis? Now that we see they’re moving these new centers to struggling and underdeveloped New York City and a suburb of Washington, D.C., maybe we and all of the other aspirants across the country were trolled. Maybe we were wasting our time even pursuing that project.
But no 21st-century business is going to want to locate in a state that protects only some of its residents.
In an interview with The Star, Parson seemed to get the basic unfairness of the status quo.
“Do I think people should be discriminated on in the workforce? No I don’t. I never have felt that way,” the governor said. “Even when it’s things I don’t believe in, and I’ve tried to make that apparent. My views are different than some, but at the end of the day, if somebody’s working and they’re a good worker, then I don’t think they should be discriminated against.”
Not complicated, right? The worry is that not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity means encroaching on the religious liberty of some Christians and others who as Parson says “believe a different way.”
That’s not a frivolous concern, but the answer can’t be to continue allowing discrimination of any kind to be legal.
“I just know where my beliefs are as a Christian,” Parson said. “That’s where I am. But everybody doesn’t have to agree with me on that. And I mean, there have been plenty of people that I would consider my friends that don’t agree with me.”
With a person of goodwill as governor, we’re hopeful that lawmakers can find a way to protect the rights of both LGBT and Christian Missourians.
Parson is wrong, though, to question whether government has a significant role to play in moving us away from practices that are wrong. It does, and so does he.