Legislative Update: Missouri is Part of a Nationwide Attack on All of Us

Jul 8, 2024

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Giving the Alt-Right the Attention They Deserve

The letter you’re about to read is different from the legislative updates we’ve sent to you in the past. Our team grappled with whether we should send this out, just as we regularly discuss whether we give airtime to hateful bills that seemingly have no path to passage and risk using our platforms to increase the fear mongering within our community. We decided that the need to share the bigger picture and broader background behind the attacks our state is facing was the greater need.

Below, you’ll get an overview of how we got to the climate we’re in, how the legislative session is currently going, and a view of the larger picture Missouri plays a part in. We’ll also ask you to do two things this year that can change the makeup of our government from one of hate to one of equality. It is a bit longer than usual, but we hope you’ll take the time to read it in its entirety and share with a friend.

The State of Missouri has introduced more anti-LGBTQ+ bills than any other state — at least 99 bills between 2018 and 2023 alone according to FiveThirtyEight (538). It wasn’t until 2023 when Governor Parson signed into law both SB 39 and SB 49, two extremely anti-trans bills, that Missouri enacted any of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills. 

For the first 3-4 years, the introduction of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Missouri was in the single digits. It increased to double digits in 2022 and then increased to 54 in 2023. How does that relate to the rest of the country? In the same five-year timeframe, over 100 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have passed in state legislatures, half in 2023 alone. Missouri, like many states, have seen a greater uptick in the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year as sitting elected officials use the harm in these to campaign for their future election success. We’re anticipating continued election campaigning efforts will push these through the legislative process.

As the Movement Advancement Project so aptly put it this week:

All too often white Christian nationalists aspiring for more political power actually get hearings on their bills. You’ve seen this time and time again throughout last year and this year as we started off each legislative session with hearings for 8-9 anti-LGBTQ+ bills at one time. The power behind these bills’ origins, the money backing many sitting legislators pushing them to bid for higher offices, is often part of the deal for why these bills receive hearings in the first place, regardless if their topics are seen as harmful or unnecessary to legislate by a majority of elected leaders. They have no shame or concern for the incredible harm their malicious, transphobic, and homophobic bills do just by being discussed. 

Another tactic typically used by alt-right leaders is to introduce outrageous bills that will distract voters, so that equally hateful and violent, but less visibly bigoted bills are able to be heard, debated, and passed into law without pushback. The current example is House Bill 2885, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Gragg of Ozark, MO, which criminalizes teachers and forces them to register as sex offenders for providing any support to trans or gender-expansive students. The media and our community latched onto this bill, though currently, there doesn’t seem to be any path to passage. Meanwhile, HB 1518 has reached the Senate after a meager turnout for testimony against it. It now awaits a public hearing in the Senate, which is likely to happen after lawmakers return from spring break, where the bill could move forward putting college and university students at risk of legalized discrimination.

This trend in Missouri is not unique to our state. In fact, we typically see regular introduction of new legislation that will later be introduced in other states OR more aggressive versions of bills taken from other states to build upon the bigotry over the next couple of years. The reason the alt-right picks our state for this strategy is because of how our bills can be filled.

Legislators, in our system, are able to file the exact same bill that other legislators have already filed, with no limits on how many can do so.

You might have noticed in hearings that bill sponsors will call attention to all of their bills being identical in a hearing or committee members asking multiple bill authors, “All three of you have identical bills, is that correct?” When identical legislation is filed over and over in a year or throughout multiple years, it signals what the alt-right priorities are in the current year and over the next few.

This is all part of a decades-long, well-funded, highly-coordinated, strategic attack on democracy and fundamental freedoms. The bills and attacks we are seeing in Missouri are the exact same ones we’re seeing in our federal government. Many of these bills, including the two anti-trans bills that were signed into law last year in our state, are either direct copies or modeled after legislation from national conservative groups such as Do Not Harm and the Family Research Council. Missouri’s gender-affirming health care ban was a version from the latter group and both them and conservative think tank Heritage Foundation testified in support of it (and you might recall the Heritage Foundation as the operation behind Jamie Reed). The rest of the year, as you well know, had every extremist alt-right politician in other branches of government and even the courts attacking transgender, nonbinary, and intersex communities. 

There is a playbook they are following called Project 2025 which, if you aren’t familiar with it, outlines how the alt-right can move our country closer and closer to a government of autocracy. We’ve stated throughout this year that LGBTQ+ rights are intersectional, and the alt-right would agree based on their own strategy. LGBTQ+ rights are one key lever they are manipulating in a multi-issue campaign that attacks freedoms such as bodily autonomy, access to knowledge and public education, self-expression and identity, how we use public spaces and conversations in the media, and our (in)ability to vote (Freedom Under Fire Report).

Our partners at The Trevor Project did a survey of LGBTQ+ youth and their mental health, and it specifically breaks down the results in Missouri (2022 National Survey on Youth Mental Health  – Missouri Results).

The data collected shows that just one supportive adult — just one adult like you — can save the life of an LGBTQ+ teen.

So today, we are reaching out because the rhetoric is being spread and harm is being done. We need you to educate yourself on how these attacks are intersectional and will destroy all of our collective freedoms. A great place to start is an article recently published by the Kansas City Beacon titled: “National conservative groups are working to limit transgender rights. They’re finding success in Missouri.” Then, we need you to commit to two things: (1) be that safe adult for LGBTQ+ youth and all LGBTQ+ community members and (2) vote out extremists this year who do not share your values.