Missouri human rights chair opposes LGBT protections. Parson must ask him to resign | Opinion

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Will Mike Parson be remembered for fighting discrimination during his tenure as Missouri’s governor? That is a question all of us should ask. But here in the Show-Me State, actions speak.

First order of business: The governor must urge the Rev. Timothy Faber, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights chair he appointed in 2021, to resign.

Then, with urgency, Parson should fill seven vacant seats on the 11-person board tasked with enforcing the Missouri Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age.

As of this week, the commission doesn’t have enough members for a quorum. How is that fair as it sorts through complaints about businesses accused of discriminatory practices? It isn’t.

Parson cannot ignore pleas from state Democrats who want Faber gone.

Faber is a legislative liaison for the Missouri Baptist Convention and an ordained minister. He recently testified in opposition of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, a measure that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yes, you read that correctly: The chair of the commission charged with enforcing the Missouri Human Rights Act is against a bill that would add much needed protection to a small percentage of deserving Missourians.

“This bill cannot be separated from religion and particularly religious liberty,” Faber testified to members of the Senate General Laws Committee.

Why is that?

“Religious liberty is a constitutional right,” he said. “Sexual orientation and gender identity are not constitutional rights.”

Under current state law, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is allowed. But it shouldn’t be. MONA, officially known as Senate Bill 60, would remedy that.

Every resident of this state has a right to public accommodations. No one should be denied housing or employment opportunities based on gender or orientation.

“I see no reason to resign,” Faber told us via email Tuesday afternoon. “… For anyone to demand, or even request, another person to resign (basically silence them) because they disagree on some issue is un-American. … I would also remind you and the readers of (The Star) that in the hearing on the MONA bill I introduced myself as the Legislative Liaison for the Missouri Baptist Convention. I am a registered lobbyist for the MBC with the (Missouri Ethics Commission). I was not deceiving anyone in the hearing on S.B. 60 by not disclosing my position as a commissioner with MCHR. I simply did not mention it because I was not speaking as a commissioner and I know that it would not be proper for me to do so. I did not volunteer the information that I and a grandfather to 4 grandchildren, I did not mention what schools I graduated from, I did not mention that I don’t like tomatoes. Why? Because none of that is relevant. I was there in the hearing as the Legislative Liaison for the Missouri Baptist Convention, that is what is relevant.”

The decision to replace Faber and appoint members to the human rights commission who oppose discrimination should be an easy call. Will Parson, a devout Christian, ignore pleas for a compassionate commission chair in Faber’s stead?

We’ve known Parson to be both a kind and gentle statesman when he wants to be, as well as a staunch Republican who favors state control of the Kansas City Police Department. He has signed into law other measures that prove he’s willing to buck his party’s extremes to do the right thing for all Missourians, as any great governor would do.

We are not here to bash Parson or his political appointments for hard-right turns. We simply want the governor to consider the importance of the human rights commission’s stated mission to eliminate discrimination in public places in Missouri.

Fabar is unfit to serve in his role, state Sen. Greg Razer of Kansas City said. The head of the Missouri Human Rights Commission should not advocate against adding sexual orientation or gender identity to Missouri’s nondiscrimination act, other LGBTQ advocates told us.

In a letter to Parson, 10 Democratic state senators called for Faber’s removal. We join them in that call.

As chair, Faber’s lobbying against the proposal is a direct contradiction to the mission of the commission, the senators wrote.

Our hope is that during his final term in office, Parson will make sure he falls on the right side of history.

That work must begin with Faber’s ouster.

“I do not speak for the Human Rights Commission,” Faber told reporters this week.

But by virtue of his position, he does.

“He can’t do the job without bias,” Razer said of Faber. He sure can’t.

In Missouri, every minority group needs to be protected, Razer said.

Faber has every right to express his personal views. But in the best interests of all Missourians, Gov. Parson must immediately fill vacancies on the state human rights commission with qualified, compassionate members and ask Faber to step aside.

Editor’s note: This editorial was updated with statement from the Rev. Faber Tuesday afternoon.