April 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Mo. ‘religious freedom’ measure dies in committee

Missouri, gay news, Washington Blade

A Missouri House committee killed an anti-gay measure. (Photo by Visitjeffersoncity; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A House committee killed on Wednesday a “religious freedom” measure in Missouri that last month generated national headlines after Senate Democrats filibustered it for 39 hours.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the House Emerging Issues Committee voted 6-6 on the amendment, a tie that effectively kills the measure and prevents it from coming before Missouri voters on the ballot this fall. Three Republican members of the committee — Reps. Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), Jim Hansen (R-Frankford) — reportedly joined with the committee’s three Democrats in casting votes against the measure.

The measure — Senate Joint Resolution 39 — was a proposed state constitutional amendment would have enabled religiously-affiliated groups receiving state funds, businesses and individuals to deny services to same-sex couples, children of same-sex couples and LGBT youth out of religious objections.

Had the House approved the measure in the aftermath of the Senate in favor of the amendment, it would have been placed before Missouri voters on the Election Day ballot.

After the Senate approved the measure, the House hesitated to act for weeks. A committee markup that initially scheduled last week was postponed until the vote on Wednesday.

State Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, issued a statement affirming the measure was dead after the House committee vote.

“I am deeply disappointed that Missourians will not have the opportunity to vote on protecting religious freedom,” Onder said. “Seven weeks ago, the Missouri Senate stood strong through the longest filibuster in state history and voted 23–7 to advance SJR 39. Today, House members caved to pressure from special interests and killed the religious freedom amendment. It is wrong that Missouri voters will be denied a voice in the decision-making process.”

In March, the Missouri Senate voted to approve the measure only after Democrats in the chamber filibustered the amendment for 39 hours over objections to enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came out against the legislation and in favor of the filibuster. Earlier this month, Michael Sam, the first openly gay person to be drafted into the National Football League, announced he would return to his home state of Missouri to help efforts against the measure.

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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