License to Discriminate: Missouri House Advances Legislation that Would Permit Publicly Funded Student Organizations to Ban LGBTQ+ Members

by Cullen Peele

Jefferson City, MO — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, blasted extremist members of the Missouri House for passing HB 1518, which, if signed into law, would allow any student organization on a college campus, including publicly funded organizations, to refuse membership to other students based on the group’s religious beliefs. The dangerous bill opens the door to discrimination against LGBTQ+ students with taxpayer funds and is the latest attack on the community at the hands of extremist Republican legislators seeking to advance their anti-freedom, anti-equality agenda.

No student should fear being excluded from a university-funded student group based on the personal beliefs of some members. Legislation such as HB 1518 undermines nondiscrimination principles and advances the false narrative that LGBTQ+ people and people of faith are incompatible. Many people of faith support LGBTQ+ inclusion and many LGBTQ+ people are also people of faith. Religious freedom should not be distorted to advance discriminatory measures. The Human Rights Campaign urges the Missouri Senate to reject this harmful legislation because no student should be turned away from an organization because of who they are or who they love.”

Sarah Warbelow, Vice President, Legal, Human Rights Campaign

The consequences of federal and state religious refusal bills have undermined our core civil rights protections and jeopardized the health and safety of vulnerable people. Business leaders and many faith leaders have opposed efforts to enact these types of bills across the country knowing the harm they can cause. More than 300 major U.S. corporations have spoken out to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed in states across the country. Major employers in tech, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, and other sectors are joining with a unified voice to say that discrimination is bad for business and to call on lawmakers to abandon these efforts. Over 100 large employers have also signed onto the Count Us In pledge, which includes a commitment to ensure access to health care for their transgender and nonbinary employees.

Religious refusal bills also lead to costly litigation for state and local governments. Allowing people to pick and choose which laws to follow predictably causes harmful confusion. State and local governments have been tied up in court for years defending constitutional laws and policies to which some individuals and businesses object. In 2015, Indiana’s disastrous attempt to pass a similar bill resulted in the loss of 12 conventions and had a negative economic impact of up to $60 million.

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