COLUMBIA, Mo. - While Michael Sam is becoming an icon for the gay rights movement on a national level, he is also bringing attention to Missouri's LGBT laws.
Missouri is often thought of as a conservative state with a contentious history regarding gay protections and marriage. It is also one of 29 states currently lacking a non-discrimination policy. That means someone could be fired from a job because of their sexual orientation.
Therefore, having a former Missouri football player come out on a national stage is starting a conversation here in Missouri about its laws.
"I think people just immediately go,oh, it's a red state so not supportive," said Struby Struble, University of Missouri's LGBTQ coordinator. "I think that it can really help the nations view on what happens in Missouri and what its like here."
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told ABC 17 News that Sam's courage should remind Missourians that we need to be tolerant and not discriminate.
"I think that Missouri legislature need to realize that right now both the Chiefs and the Rams could legally say they were not hiring Michael Sam because he is gay," said McCaskill.
A.J. Bockelman who has fought for gay rights in Missouri's state legislature for almost a decade now tells ABC 17 News that hope is on the horizon for the LGBT community, and that this national attention to Sam will help tremendously.
"More than ever I'm seeing this as a bipartisan effort and that really wasn't true about three years ago," said Bockelman.
Congress woman Vicky Hartzler, who has defended Missouri's law on same sex marriage sent ABC 17 News a statement today congratulating Sam on his career, but did not want to comment on his personal life.
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