Missouri bills would ban gender neutral university housing, unisex bathrooms

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Gender-neutral university housing and many unisex public bathrooms would be banned in Missouri under bills that have been introduced in the Legislature.

Rep. Jeff Pogue, a Salem Republican who submitted the bills last week, said in an email that he wants to “protect the social norms of our state,” the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.

The introduction of gender-neutral legislation comes about one month after the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia announced plans to test out a new 16-bed housing option starting this fall.

The goal is to create a safe place for students who are transgender or gender nonconforming, Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life at MU, said in February. MU spokesman Christian Basi said the university does not comment on pending legislation.

The other bill would prohibit any state-funded bathroom from being unisex unless it is single-occupancy.

Pogue said in an email statement that if the state “were to change a social norm of this magnitude,” the General Assembly or voters should make the decision, through a bill or a ballot measure. The result should apply statewide, he said.

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Kyle Piccola, a lobbyist for the group PROMO, which advocates for gay and transgender rights, called Pogue’s legislation “disheartening.”

“They’re attacks on the transgender community,” Piccola said. “Everybody, including the transgender community, cares about privacy and safety, particularly in the bathroom.”

Piccola said bills proposed this late in the session “don’t typically go anywhere,” but PROMO will be monitoring the bills and creating an advocacy plan if that changes.

Neither of the bills have been referred to a committee. Legislators are out this week for their annual spring break.

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