JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Special Committee on Litigation Reform yesterday heard proposed modifications to Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws. The legislation presented would make Missouri the most difficult state to prevail in a discrimination lawsuit in the entire country.
Chairman Bill Lant, R-Pineville, during the committee hearing, denied Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel the opportunity to give a 5-minute testimony against the harmful legislation. He was the only witness who was deprived of the opportunity to speak.
“As President of the Missouri NAACP and a practicing attorney, I had hoped to have a real discussion on the effects of legalizing individual discrimination. The Chair’s refusal to let me speak ensured that not only my voice but all voices of those protected by antidiscrimination laws in the state were silenced,” said Chapel.
“I find it troubling that they are already using this power to silence voices of dissent. The ignorance of their actions is highlighted by the fact that they are attacking civil rights in the middle of Black History Month and this insensitivity seems completely lost on them,” said Black Caucus Chairman Alan Green, D-Florissant.
State Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, the only African-American male attorney in the Missouri Legislature and a member of the committee witnessed the blatant act of oppression.
“The climate of this committee hearing and the actions of the committee chair were highly unusual, and it is beyond my comprehension of how you can remove the only voice present that can personally resonate with the individuals these measures would negatively affect,” said Roberts.
State Rep. Clem Smith, D-St. Louis also experienced similar treatment from Rep. Lant during the 2016 legislative session. Rep. Smith during the House Workplace Standards Committee was denied the opportunity to inquire.
“The Republican Party has super majorities in the General Assembly and five Executive Offices across the state, an awesome power granted to them by the citizens of Missouri,” said Smith. “It is appalling that despite these numbers they are unable to allow a five-minute testimony expressing alternative opinions and it is foreboding for the shape of things to come. Will they ban all testimony of the people they aim to disenfranchise?”