PROMO—For the Personal Rights of Missourians—originated in 1986 with six concerned citizens in a living room in St. Louis who wanted to respond to the Supreme Court Hardwick decision that upheld antisodomy laws (these were eventually overturned in 2003 with the Lawrence decision). This educational, community outreach, and political activist organization has always had its roots in LGBT equality issues. It has three separate divisions: PROMO, which handles legislative activism and lobbying; the PROMO Fund, which does education and community outreach; and PROMO PAC, which endorses candidates and participates in the electoral process. In the past 20 years, the people in PROMO have become an effective voice in educating citizens, news media, and elected officials on issues because, according to its current Statement of Purpose, “PROMO believes that our society is dedicated to individual liberty, pluralism, and the experience of diversity. It supports the right of individuals to conduct their personal lives free from unreasonable governmental restrictions and intrusions.”
The organization was introduced to me when I was sent to cover Equality Day on March 29th in Jefferson City, MO. Equality Day was organized by PROMO and allied organizations to lobby Missouri elected officials on two bills, HB 1502 – Missouri Anti-Bullying Legislation and SB 716 / HB 1593 – Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA). Equality Day was deemed an unmitigated success. Nearly 200 participants arrived from around the state, representing the highest number of legislative districts ever brought together by the organization.
A 2006 Missouri Legislative Recap email announced reasons to celebrate and some disappointments for the organization. The antibullying bill passed—but its language is vague, it did not list any protected classes, and it actually repeals several good antibullying policies that some school districts already have in place.
One huge success is the HB 1698, the bill repealing Missouri’s sexual misconduct law, which passed unanimously in both chambers and now awaits the Governor’s signature..PROMO, working in a coalition with pro-choice allies, also successfully lobbied representatives against HB 1075, a bill that would have rewritten Missouri’s comprehensive sex education law to align with abstinence only polices; it was defeated. And finally, HCR 45, a bill proposed by Rep. Jane Cunningham (Rep – MO Dist. 86) HCR 45 that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, died in the Rules Committee.
PROMO advocates strongly for LGBT parenting and works to ensure that no legislation is passed that would prevent children in foster care from being adopted. A poll in late November 2005 measured Missourians’ attitudes toward banning adoption by gays and lesbians; 58% said they would vote against any ban. After PROMO met with allied legislators and discussed the poll results, no legislation was filed.
PROMO has refined it s bylaws this year to more clearly state its focus on LBGT issues. It has redesigned and updated its website, www.PROMOonline.org, which provides members, both current and perspective, with information about anti-LBGT policies. It’s worth taking a look as this organization moves forward to combat the discriminatory policies bigoted organizations and their representatives try to push through.
PROMO will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in July (see ad on page 17) and will be hosting events in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield.