December 2, 2020

LGBTQ rights, concerns discussed at Pizza and Politics

By Tierre Rhodes and James Dundon

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO (an organization which lobbies for LGBTQ right), spent summers during his youth in a seminary. He knew what he felt at a young age. Bockelman is  gay.[pullquote]“I felt like I was running from my sexuality,” A.J. Bockelman said. [/pullquote]

“I felt like I was running from my sexuality,” Bockelman said.

Bockelman was one of three panel members at Pizza and Politics: Moving Policy Forward, LGBTQ Rights. The event was Wednesday, March 27 at 6 p.m. at Webster University. Webster professor and former governor Bob Holden and mayor of Springfield, Mo., Robert Stephens accompanied him.

“I know the difference between right and wrong,” Bockelman said. “I knew I wasn’t wrong which is why I chose not to reconcile with the church.

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, visited Webster University to talk about LGBTQ rights during Pizza and Politics. Bockelman is also an advocate of LGBTQ. PHOTO BY VICTORIA DICKSON

PROMO is currently lobbying for the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA).

MONA, Missouri HB-615, states Missouri’s existing laws would change to include discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. The current laws prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, or age.

Not everyone at this session of Pizza and Politics expressed positive feelings about MONA.

A member of the Webster Groves Community, Jim Hollis, feels that politicians use such issues to separate the country.

“I’m disappointed to see that everyone assumes by default that this is progress,” Hollis said. “Movement is not always positive.”

Today was also Equality Day at the state’s capitol in Jefferson, Mo. This is an annual event, affiliated with PROMO, which allows the LGBTQ community to voice its opinions and concerns. Issues such as equality for housing and employment are two of the main focuses in Missouri.

PROMO is an organization which  fights for the equality and protection for the lesbian, gay and transgendered. According to KOMU-TV, PROMO is trying to pass a bill that would revise the definition of discrimination in order to include gender discrimination and equality for the state. There is also discussion of another bill that would enforce policies at schools for anti-bullying, specifically for sexual orientation.

There are bills in other states attempting to be passed restricting gay, straight and transgendered people. Recently in Arizona, the Republican legislature are trying to pass a bill which would force people to only use public bathrooms, dressing rooms and or showers that are only associated with their gender. The legislation is working to make this a criminal offense resulting in 6 months in jail or a $2,500 fine.

“Until we can really parse out the fact, to everybody, that biological sex and gender are two totally different things, I think this is just probably going to get a little bit more nasty before it gets good,” Nina McDonnell, a Saint Louis University psychology major, said.


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