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Local LGBTQ milestones of 2019 and what advocates want to see in 2020

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Posted at 8:56 AM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 09:56:07-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From a ban on conversion therapy to cities making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTQ advocates say the Kansas City area made progress in 2019.

But those same advocates say there is work left to do in 2020 to achieve full equality.

On a statewide level, Missouri Representative Greg Razer of Jackson County will bring a bill to the legislative session next week making it illegal for employers in the state to fire or discriminate against someone because of their LGBTQ status. It is the 22nd year the legislature will consider the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act. Razer is optimistic it will finally pass this year.

“First it was the city of Kansas City passed it. Now a decade later, we're seeing suburban communities pass it. We have a state representative from Bolivar who has supported it. We have a state representative from southeast Missouri who will support it. We're seeing these changes,” Razer said.

In 2019, new Kansas Governor Laura Kelly reinstated a similar ordinance protecting state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and extended those protections to government contractors.

In Johnson County, Kansas, several cities adopted their own non-discrimination ordinances in 2019. Overland Park, Olathe, Fairway and Westwood joined a list of about 12 cities in the county with an ordinance protecting the LGBTQ community.

“There is still a lot of pushback against these things,” noted Maite Salazar, a queer woman and LGBTQ advocate. “We're not even asking for anything amazing or extra or something that will take resources away from someone else. We're just saying can you put it in writing that we can't be discriminated against or killed because of who we are.”

Salazar was part of a group which pushed for Kansas City, Missouri, to ban conversion therapy. Quinton Lucas made the ban one of the first issues he tackled after becoming mayor in August 2019.

Conversion therapy is a way to try and convince someone not to be gay. Many scientists have discredited its effectiveness. Salazar hopes Missouri and Kansas look at statewide bans in 2020.

Across the country though, supporters of conversion therapy are challenging bans arguing they violate free speech rights between a counselor and their patient.

2019 wasn’t without struggles. According to the Human Rights Campaign, three of the at least 25 homicides in the United States victimizing a transgender person happened in the Kansas City metro.

Brooklyn Lindsey and Brianna “BB” Hill were killed in Kansas City, Missouri. And in Kansas City, Kansas, police investigated Jamagio Jamar “Ja’Leyah” Berryman's death.

Salazar is running for U.S. Congress in part to fight for better protections for transgender people. She said many shelters don’t take in transgender people, leaving them no alternatives to domestic violence or other bad situations.

Her solution is to secure federal funding for shelters specifically tailored to the transgender population.

“These [traumas] are all really damaging things to human beings as a whole. The more we can alleviate that stress, the more I think we'll see our society flourish and I think be a more beautiful and accepting and compassionate society,” Salazar explained.

Salazar hopes to challenge current Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

In November, Cleaver criticized the federal departments of defense and housing and urban development for discriminating against transgender people and their families saying, “it shows the United Sates of America, at least the administration, is in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Change is still needed.”

Cleaver has also condemned violence focused on people because of their gender identity.