JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Democrats on Monday called for the removal of the leader of the state’s Human Rights Commission after he testified last week against a bill for LGBTQ+ rights.
Timothy Faber, chairman of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, has “lost the trust of elected leaders,” Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson, who appointed the fellow Republican to the commission in 2021. The commission handles cases of alleged discrimination in the state.
The bill in question, brought by the state’s only openly gay senator, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would offer protections against landlords refusing to rent to LGBTQ+ people or employers firing them.
Faber testified against it last week, telling Senate committee members that “this bill cannot be separated from religion, and particularly religious liberty.”
“The U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution both guarantee the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech,” he continued. “This bill sets up a host of conflicts against such freedoms.”
Faber spoke against the legislation as part of his other job as a lobbyist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, which he accepted in January. Faber confirmed his role as the human rights chairman to lawmakers after being questioned by a Democratic senator, which Democrats said came across as an attempt to conceal his work on the commission.
“While Mr. Faber has a right to express his personal views or the views of other organizations with which he may be affiliated, his decision to place these roles before his duties as chairman makes it clear he can no longer continue in this capacity,” Democrats wrote.
Faber said Monday that he was not trying to hide his position on the commission and he will continue to advocate for the Baptist Convention. He argued that there is no conflict in him serving in both roles, including lobbying on legislation that would impact his work on the commission.
“If every private citizen is not allowed to speak on issues in other capacities, or even as a private citizen, without jeopardizing their position on a board or commission that they serve on, we’re never going to get anybody to serve in these positions,” Faber said.
Faber also testified previously in favor of a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors during a February committee hearing.
Parson’s spokeswoman and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights executive director did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Only four of the commission’s 11 seats are currently filled, and Faber said the body has not had enough members to do business since August. He said the commission currently faces a backlog of cases.
Efforts to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender have failed for years in the Missouri Legislature. Even receiving a hearing, as the legislation did this year, is a notable departure.