Missouri Republicans Send Antigay 'Religious Freedom' Bill to House

Missouri Republican Senator Bob Onder
Missouri Republican Senator Bob Onder speaks on May 9 as Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe looks on

After shutting down a historic filibuster aimed at blocking an antigay constitutional amendment that claims to protect “religious freedom,” Missouri’s Republican-led Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to advance Senate Joint Resolution 39 to the House of Representatives. It has not yet been scheduled for a first reading in the House. 

Seven Democratic senators launched the record-breaking filibuster Monday evening, speaking on the Senate floor continuously for 39 hours, until Republicans used an obscure procedural move to end the discussion Wednesday morning. But lawmakers still had to take a formal vote on the proposed constitutional amendment, according to the Washington Blade

The Blade reports: 

“That vote, which was 23-7, took place on Thursday, but not until Democrats in the chamber filibustered again by spending nearly six hours spent reviewing and debating material in the official state record of Senate action this week.”

If passed by both chambers of the Republican-dominated legislature, the resolution would go on the ballot in November, asking Missouri voters to amend the state constitution to protect “certain religious organizations and individuals from being penalized by the state because of their sincere religious beliefs or practices concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex,” according to the measure’s text. 

Republican sponsors of the legislation contend that it and other so-called religious freedom laws proposed around the country are not discriminatory but necessary to protect the free expression of those who oppose marriage equality.

“We are fighting for fairness and the right for people to freely live out their faith while not infringing on the rights of others,” Republican Sen. Bob Onder, who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement earlier this month. “This is not about discrimination; it’s about liberty.”

But opponents — including Missouri’s Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, major corporations like Monsanto and Dow Chemical, and every one of the state Senate’s Democrats — contend that the amendment would “enshrine discrimination into the state constitution.” 

The Human Rights Campaign blasted the resolution as “an irresponsible and shameful attempt by Missouri lawmakers to put LGBT people and their families in serious danger of even further discrimination.” 

“The freedom to practice one’s religion is one of the founding principles of our country, but to use it as a means of state-sanctioned discrimination is completely unacceptable,” continued HRC’s legal director Sarah Warbelow in a statement Thursday night. “We call on the Missouri House of Representatives to listen to the overwhelming chorus of pro-equality voices outraged by this proposal and reject this attack on LGBT people.”