Missouri Supreme Court Makes Sense for Once

By Penny Robo

Penny RoboIn 2014, the family of RJ Appleberry filed a lawsuit claiming sex discrimination against Missouri’s Blue Springs School District. It went to the Court of Appeals after being dismissed by a circuit judge in Jackson County, and found its way to the Missouri Supreme Court where the dismissal was finally overturned in February of 2019. Five years later, the original lawsuit can finally proceed.

RJ Appleberry is trans. His transition began when he was 9, his documents were amended, the school’s records he was listed as male, and he played on the boys’ sports teams. Yet throughout his schooling he was forced to use the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms. The school district claimed it was drawing a “reasonable line when it came to changing clothes”. Though he is no longer within that school district and is now attending college, the precedent here is important.

This clarification by MO’s Supreme Court has huge ramifications for the interpretation of the Missouri law, clarifying language that could permit a number of other lawsuits to be introduced or existing suits to move forward. Neither gender identity or sexual orientation are explicitly considered protected classes, and other lawsuits have been dismissed because of this.

Let that sink in for a second: In Missouri, you can legally fire an employee for being gay. In 2019. And not the 2019 you see in The Running Man. Holy hell.

While the original lawsuit will move forward based on its own merits, this ruling toward its viability is a momentous one, and will undoubtedly lead toward further pushes toward absolute clarification of the scope of Missouri’s discrimination protection. Whether it’s for the best or not remains to be seen, but there’s a glimmer of hope for the moment.

About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender healthcare, public health, psychiatry, and history of medicine, integrating these many perspectives and guided by the lived experiences of trans people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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