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For Immediate Release
June 22, 2008

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Division of Civil and Disability Rights Will Focus on Discrimination Issues Based on Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation, and the Disabled Community

Jefferson City, MO – Senator Chris Koster today announced that within six months of becoming Attorney General, he will create a ninth division of the Attorney General’s Office, the Division of Civil and Disability Rights. The Division willre-organize responsibility for civil and disability rights from the existing eight units, and place those responsibilities in the hands of one central division.

“By creating the Division of Civil and Disability Rights, we will be sending a strong message that discrimination of all kinds towards the disabled community, or based on race, gender, or sexual orientation is simply unacceptable in the state of Missouri,” Senator Koster said. “This division will aggressively fight for equity under the law and against discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, education, public transportation and voting rights, among others. Needless to say, the Division will have my steadfast support.”

The new division will house the attorneys responsible for matters involving the Missouri Human Rights Act. These attorneys currently are part of the Governmental Affairs, Consumer Protection and Litigation Divisions. Attorneys responsible for matters involving racial profiling will be re-assigned from the Public Safety Division to the Division of Civil and Disability Rights.

Furthermore, the Division will be responsible for all domestic violence issues. A high-level official within the Division will be responsible for domestic violence resource protection, and training county officials throughout the state on best practices for domestic violence prosecutions. Additionally, this Division will ensure that orders of protection in domestic assault cases apply equally to all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.

The Division of Civil and Disability Rights will also house a high-level official who will serve as a liaison to the LGBT community. This official will be charged with overseeing the prosecution of state hate crimes law, as well as the aggressive advocacy for the passage of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA).

In the area of disability rights, the Division will work to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which seeks to protect the disabled community from all forms of discrimination. The Division will also work to ensure to compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The goal of HAVA is to ensure polling place accessibility for disabled Americans.

Finally, the Division will use the Attorney General’s seat on the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) to advocate for accessible housing through universal design, and aggressively prosecute violations of the Fair Housing Act.

“The charge of this Division will be to aggressively prosecute discrimination, and open the doors of the Attorney General’s Office to Missourians of all walks of life,” Koster added. “These are important first steps in that process.”

The Attorney General’s Office is currently comprised of eight divisions: Agriculture and Environment, Consumer Protection, Criminal, Financial Services, Government Affairs, Labor, Litigation and Public Safety.