Missouri Republicans Pass Anti-Gay ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill, Ending Democrats’ 39-Hour Filibuster


Using a parliamentary maneuver, Missouri Republicans voted 21-11 to end a 39-hour filibuster led by Democratic legislators, forcing a vote on a controversial measure to add more religious protections to people opposed to same-sex marriage.

The Democratic blockade had put a national focus on a GOP-sponsored measure to shield clergy, wedding vendors and religious organizations from penalties if they oppose same-sex marriage.

The nearly 40-hour talk-a-thon on the Missouri State Capitol floor in Jefferson City, which began around 4 p.m. Monday, appears to be a new record for the Missouri Senate.

The bill, known as Senate Joint Resolution 39, proposes an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would prohibit the state from “penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Bob Onder, said he believes the amendment “is entirely defensive, in that it prevents state and local governments from imposing penalties. It is a shield, not a sword.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, praised the senators’ efforts and said they are “standing on the right side of history.”

Major corporations have come out publicly against Resolution 39.

Missouri-based agricultural giant Monstanto issued a statement Tuesday amid the filibuster when asked about a rumors that the company was lobbying to defeat the measure.

“At Monsanto we remain committed to diversity and inclusion for all,” Missouri-based agricultural giant Monstanto said in a statement to Buzzfeed on Tuesday. “This legislation would be contrary to that positio. Monsanto is calling on other businesses and the agricultural community to join the company in speaking out against discrimination here in our home state of Missouri and around the world.”

The St. Louis chamber of commerce said SJR 39 “sends the message to the rest of the country that Missouri condones discrimination.”

Dow Chemical, which maintains plants in the state, announced its opposition to the legislation.

Several LGBT organizations have publicly condemned SJR 39.

“This bill would enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by allowing taxpayer-funded organizations like adoption and foster care agencies and homeless shelters to refuse serving LGBT families, in addition to countless other harmful consequences,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri.

“Laws that promote discrimination are anti-democratic, harm Missouri families, and – as we’ve learned in Indiana – are bad for our economy,” he added. “That is why so many Missourians, including clergy and business leaders, strongly oppose any effort – such as SJR 39 – that would seek to enshrine inequality in our Missouri Constitution.”

“Religious freedom is one of our nation’s fundamental values, and that’s why it’s firmly protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This reckless legislation has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with enabling discrimination against LGBT Missourians and their families. Discrimination against LGBT people should never be sanctioned by the state, and we call on the Missouri House of Representatives to resoundingly reject this outrageous resolution.”

“We agree that religion is a fundamental right, which is why it is protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in our existing Human Rights Act. We are not arguing that clergy and churches should be denied their freedom of religion,” said PROMO Executive Director Steph Perkins. “But those same religious beliefs cannot be used as a reason to deny someone the same services that are offered to the rest of the public by private businesses. And that is exactly what SJR 39 aims to do. Businesses and organizations have already been rightly concerned about the consequences of this bill and are outspoken in their opposition.”

Missouri’s legislative session ends in mid-May, which leaves plenty of time for Resolution 39 to make its way through the Republican-led House. If approved, it would be submitted to statewide voters in either the August primary or November general election, according to NBC News.

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