A 34-hour Democratic senate filibuster, which started Monday in Missouri's capitol of Jefferson City over proposed religious protection measure Senate Joint Resolution 39, is making national news. As of Wednesday morning, to force a vote and end the filibuster, the Republican sponsor of this "religious objections" proposal has distributed a new version of a measure that would allow protections if businesses deny services related to same-sex marriage.
As reported in The Gospel Herald Feb. 26 in the article "Missouri Voters May Decide on Expanded Religious Exemptions for Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies," increased legal protection would be granted to representatives of business, church and other religious entities if they decline to provide services for, or participate in, same-sex weddings. Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, wanted to put the question on the ballot this year in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment.
The measure would prohibit government penalties against business owners and individuals who cite a "sincere religious belief" while declining to provide services involving "expressional or artistic creation" for same-sex weddings.
The proposed new version of the measure specifies that businesses are protected if services are denied for a wedding or closed before or after a reception. It also cites florists and photographers as examples.
The measure also would shield clergy and worship places that decline to participate in such weddings.
Senators haven't voted on the new proposal yet, reports KCTV News.
"This bill is a direct hit on those individuals who decide to love and be in love with the same sex, and that's not fair," said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, one of eight Democratic state senators trying to stop the bill from passing, as reported by CNN.
Onder told CNN a lot of time was spent writing the bill to avoid the controversies seen in other states.
Opponents of the measure, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the PROMO advocacy group, have called it "anti-LGBT legislation." They compared it to Indiana's controversial religious freedom law that lawmakers there passed last year.
"These dangerous bills and potential constitutional amendments only succeed in showing people Missouri is not a welcoming state," the organizations said in a letter to lawmakers last month. "We should focus on keeping Missouri competitive, not keep people away."
As the filibuster stretched into its second day Tuesday, it drew attention on social media, where supporters, and some critics, weighed in using the hashtag #NotInMyState. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, praised lawmakers for their efforts.
Democratic lawmakers said they had no plan to stop.
Republicans dominate both houses of Missouri's General Assembly, with 24 of 34 Senate seats and 116 of 163 House seats.
If the measure passes the state's Senate and House, Missouri voters will have the final say. To become part of the constitution, a majority of voters must approve it in a statewide vote.