The map looks like something used in war.
The areas marked in green denote battles won. The areas in white are places not yet conquered.
The map is of St. Louis County and St. Louis city. It was created by PROMO, a Missouri gay rights advocacy group that has made great strides in the past few years getting local jurisdictions to amend their anti-discrimination ordinances to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The most recent success was Tuesday, when the St. Louis County Council agreed to expand its protected classes.
Like most governments, the county's ordinance already prohibited discrimination with respect to race, color, religion, national origin and familial status.
With County Executive Charlie Dooley signing the bill into law Wednesday, none of the nearly 320,000 people living in the unincorporated areas of St. Louis County can be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodations.
And local gay rights advocates are showing no signs of stopping with the latest victory.
"If your community is not within the green area, this means that the LGBT community does not have the basic protections we need," stated an email sent out by PROMO to its supporters on Friday. The email encourages signing an online pledge committing to helping get other jurisdictions on board. That includes contacting local elected officials, writing letters to the editor and talking with friends and family about "this equality movement."
A.J. Bockelman, PROMO's executive director, said tackling the issue one jurisdiction at a time is a strategic move he is confident ultimately will lead to state legislators rewriting Missouri law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.
"It's an intentional push by us," Bockelman said. And it's a shift in strategy.
Every year, since 2000, PROMO and other gay rights advocates have tried to get a piece of legislation known as the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act passed but with little traction. When it finally made it to the floor of the Missouri House for debate last year, PROMO called it a victory, although it was ultimately voted down by a more than 2-1 ratio.
Getting that vote was crucial, Bockelman said, because it clearly showed where the support is, and where work needs to be concentrated. Meanwhile, tackling one jurisdiction at a time helps take some of the pressure off state legislators, who can go back to the Capitol and say that a city in their district passed a similar law with no problems, he said.
To some critics, local governments are rushing to pass sexual orientation ordinances without thinking through their legal implications.
"I'm tired of elected officials passing ordinances to make them feel good," said Bev Ehlen, state coordinator of Concerned Women of America, based in Chesterfield, Mo.
Others such as state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, say the approach by PROMO is smart.
In 2004, Engler led efforts to get on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It passed by 71 percent. Eight years later, Engler remains opposed to same-sex marriage but not to changing state law to prevent discrimination in housing or the workplace.
"I think it's disgusting that it be allowable in the state for a business to fire someone simply because they are gay or lesbian," said Engler. He does, however support the exemption for religious organizations -- common in the wording of other anti-discrimination amendments, including the one passed in St. Louis County.
Engler said he didn't know until about six years ago that it was legal to fire someone in Missouri solely on the basis of being gay. He said he found out from a couple of constituents "fired on those grounds."
Also, he said, "having four kids in their 20s kinds of enlightens you on things."
There has been a significant shift in public sentiment regarding gay rights in the past decade. The most common barometer is gay marriage.
In a national poll this year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 47 percent of those surveyed said they favored same-sex marriage compared with 31 percent asked in 2004. Support is strongest among those ages 18-29, of whom 30 percent said they opposed it compared with 56 percent of those ages 65 and older.
But, as was demonstrated by the crowd at Tuesday night's St. Louis County Council meeting, opposition remains strong for extending rights to gays on various levels.
Ehlen, who attended the council meeting, said in an interview later that change to the ordinance will hurt small-business owners who could be opposed to homosexuality based on religious beliefs. An exemption for those business owners should have been included, she said.
"Sexual orientation doesn't meet the criteria of a protected class," Ehlen said. "If you add in behavior and this and that and the other, you get a hodgepodge, making others less special, less protected. It just seems a little silly. And gender identity is pretty nebulous."
City by city
Dwayne James, a Ferguson city councilman, said extending rights to the LGBT community is the right thing to do. A PROMO employee contacted him last year and explained the omission of sexual orientation in the city's ordinance and why it should be included, he said.
"There was no question this needed to be included," James said. "I was surprised it was not already included. Ferguson is very diverse in every area. We don't want to exclude any kind of resident. To be able to continue to attract and retain residents, we needed to include this protection."
In August, Ferguson became the sixth city in St. Louis County to change its anti-discrimination ordinance, following Olivette, Clayton, Richmond Heights, University City and Creve Coeur. A month later, Maplewood became the seventh.
Olivette Councilman Leif Hauser contacted PROMO last year after reading that University City had set up a registry for domestic partners. He thought his city should have one, too. In the process, he found that Olivette did not offer nondiscrimination protection based on sexual orientation. The council changed the ordinance in July 2011.
"For the five of us, there was really no question whether this was the right thing to do, and believe me, we're not all of the same political mind," Hauser said.
St. Louis city has had sexual orientation as part of its anti-discrimination ordinance for 20 years. Two years ago, Shane Cohn, the city's first openly gay aldermen, led efforts to get gender identity added.
Bockelman said that as cities begin changing their ordinances, his office gets inquiries from elected leaders in other communities. Bockelman would not want to say what cities are likely to move on amendments next. But it will likely be cities where the outcome would be favorable.
"We've had people reaching out from nowhere and talked them out of trying to do it because we didn't think it would be winnable," Bockelman said. It's better to first focus on public education and try to gain support than to attempt to push hesitant local leaders to take a vote on something a community could strongly be against, he said.
Meanwhile, Bockelman will be back in Jefferson City next year, attempting to convince lawmakers that protections against discrimination should be extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity.