March 11, 2016 at 1:04 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Mo. Senate advances ‘religious freedom’ measure to House

Missouri, gay news, Washington Blade

The Missouri Senate approved an anti-gay measure. (Photo by Visitjeffersoncity; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Missouri Senate officially voted on Thursday night to send to the House legislation that would enable individuals and business to refuse services to LGBT people for religious reasons.

The measure, known as Senate Joint Resolution 39, came to nationwide attention after Democrats engaged in a 39-hour filibuster this week to stop the bill. Although Republican-controlled Senate cast terminated debate on the bill Tuesday, the chamber had to vote once again to formally approve the measure to allow the House to take it up.

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.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, called measure “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,” Warbelow said. “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.”

The measure is now before the Republican-controlled House, but it’s unknown when and if the measure will come up for a vote. If the House passes the measure, it would head to the ballot where voters would have the opportunity to ratify it as a state constitutional amendment.

No LGBT protections are included in Missouri’s state non-discrimination law, but the measure could undermine future prohibitions on anti-LGBT discrimination or undercut city ordinances prohibiting anti-LGBT bias.

Those who spoke out against the measure were the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Dow Chemical, which operates chemical plants in the state. Democratic presidential candidates Bernard Sanders and Hillary Clinton spoke out in favor of the Missouri filibuster this week on Twitter.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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