On Saturday, nearly 2,000 people gathered in Park Central Square in downtown Springfield, Missouri for the Greater Ozarks PrideFest, the region’s annual celebration of the gay community. There were speeches, music, poetry readings, drag queens—even a performance from the musical Rent.
It might sound like any number of Pride events going on across the country but in Missouri, LGBT people have few legal protections: You can be kicked off a city bus, fired from a job, even denied a place to live because of your sexuality or gender representation.
“People of gay, lesbian and transgendered lifestyles should have the right to do whatever they want to do. Just like me and you,” said George Davis, chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, who tries unsuccessfully to add sexual orientation to a list of the city’s protected classes. “It’s an embarrassment and it’s a disappointment. It’s truly a sign of poor leadership. This is something that’s been dealt with in the ’70s. The fact that Springfield hasn’t dealt with it today is inexcusable.”