Missouri Democrats filibuster gay discrimination amendment for faith groups

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Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo.

By Katherine Dowler, via Wikimedia Commons

Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo.

(Reuters) Democratic senators in Missouri were staging a filibuster into Tuesday evening (March 8), trying to block a Republican-proposed amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit penalties on religious groups that discriminate against same-sex couples.

The Democratic caucus began the filibuster at 4 p.m. on Monday and members said they planned to continue until Wednesday. A filibuster is a prolonged debate — often around the clock — aimed at blocking progress of an initiative.

The proposed amendment in Missouri is the latest in a series of measures introduced around the country by conservatives in reaction to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage.

The Florida legislature last week sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott — which he says he will sign — specifying that churches can’t be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Opponents said such a law isn’t necessary because it is already unconstitutional to force a religious group to marry a couple. They said it is an overreaction to last year’s high court ruling.

RELATED STORY: When the governor called in Jesus to defend gay people from Christians

Measures like the one being debated in Missouri also seek to protect religious groups and companies from being fined or punished if they decline to provide services such as wedding cakes or flowers to same-sex couples.

“The most offensive thing is that it would put discriminatory language into the constitution of the state. But it would also put general revenue of the state at risk,” Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny, a Democrat, told Reuters.

He pointed to a similar Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana that led to groups threatening to cancel conventions in Indianapolis.

If the resolution to amend the constitution, SJR 39, passes the Senate, it would go to the state’s House of Representatives and then to Missouri voters for approval.

Republicans dominate both houses of Missouri’s General Assembly, with 24 of 34 Senate seats and 116 of 163 House seats.

Keaveny said Republicans could respond to the filibuster by forcing a vote on the resolution to amend the constitution, but said that would be an unusual step. They could withdraw the resolution, or put it on an informal calendar to debate at a later date.

Republican Senator Bob Onder, who sponsored the resolution, said the resolution does not discriminate, but protects vulnerable religious institutions.

“We are fighting for fairness and the right for people to freely live out their faith while not infringing on the rights of others,” he said.

The language of the proposed amendment says it “prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same sex marriage ceremony or allow a same sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization’s property.”

Although the amendment does not mention companies, Keaveny said Democrats believe it would allow businesses to claim religious belief as a defense for refusing service to same-sex couples.


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  • yoh

    Does anyone continue to buy the excuse that these Republican backed “religious freedom” bills are not meant as a license for discrimination?

    I mean it is one of the most blatant untruths being uttered by politicians these days. Oh “I am not discriminating by denying people goods and services because they are gay, I am just not participating in their lifestyles….and their ability to engage in open commerce,…in the exact same fashion as every other form of discrimination”

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  • G Key

    It’s seems far too creepily similar to be mere coincidence that what these “Religious Right” Republicans are actively scheming to do so closely parallels the Revelation narrative wherein good people can’t buy goods and services unless they receive the “mark of the beast”.

    I’m utterly amazed that people who claim to be children of God(?) would go anywhere near there. What does it say about the entity they so proudly worship, that they are “doing his will” by deliberately subordinating others and treating them with trespass and cruelty instead of respect and compassion? What does it say about these people, who seek to cause others trouble, to make their lives worse? What does it say about these self-proclaimed “Christians”, who think themselves so superior that that they, and they alone, are worthy to define, judge, and abuse others’ lives as “lesser” than their own?

  • DougH

    A great example of just how intolerant the pro-revisionist movement has become, considering how much more limited this is compared to the protection the 1st Amendment should provide. It’s crystal clear by now that if the religious protection of the 1st Amendment were offered for approval today, the Left would be violently oppose it as nothing more than the right to discriminate.

  • yoh

    Get some perspective. You are trying to pretend there was ever a 1st amendment right to maliciously attack people in the name of your religion. That was never the case. The only revisionists (!iars) are the ones who equate religious freedom with discrimination.

    To claim discrimination is your right as a believer is farcical. It is akin to claiming human sacrifice is part of your free exercise rights. It is clear any notion of religious freedom you have is merely a means to a personal end. Merely a way to claim being a Christian entitled you to greater rights than anyone else.

  • G Key

    Hardly, DougH. Nice made-up story about the character of people you don’t even know, though.

    My chosen values & beliefs are based on the fact that I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else. Thus my principal guiding values are Equality, Respect, and Compassion.

    I believe the Golden Rule means respecting other people’s personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, bodies, bedrooms, & business — not to mention their rights, privacy, & equality — as I would have others respect my own.

    I believe that beliefs, in and of themselves, including church doctrine, never hurt anyone. It’s what you DO with them that matters.

    And I believe that making up stories about strangers and abusing/ insulting them accordingly is, to borrow a term, sinful.

    What if the person you mistreat is a compassionate heterosexual who believes other peoples’ sex lives are none of your business? How would you explain your abuse of that stranger to your God?

  • Ben in Oakland

    G, it says they are Christians– that is, a certain class of so called Christian, who use their bibles as a weapon against people they despise, who use their particular, peculiar version of God to justify what cannot be justified by any other means.

    Of course.

  • G Key

    …My point being: You can’t and won’t ever know, unless of course you become a peeping Tom, and then you’re really in trouble. Why? Because…drumroll, please…It’s none of your business. It’s theirs, and theirs alone. You’re the trespasser. You’re the one invading their lives. You’re the one infringing on their freedoms, their rights. You’re not responsible for their behavior. You’re responsible for your own — how you willfully treat others.

    The minute you start thinking they’re unworthy, the minute you consider them less than you, the minute you tell yourself they’re the “least”, just remember what Jesus himself said: “…I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40, NLT)

    This isn’t about them at all. This is about you — and your Pride. Your Deadly Sin. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding how you want to treat your neighbors, your customers… your equals.

  • DougH

    I agree, the Golden Rule means respecting other people’s personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, bedrooms, & business — which applies just as much to business owners as it does to prospective customers. You have no more right to insist that business owners be accessories to behavior they consider sinful than you do to tell people what they can or cannot do in their own bedrooms.

  • DougH

    No, I’m claiming that the 1st Amendment right to freely exercise your religion doesn’t vanish because you obtain a business license.

  • Christopher Johnson

    I don’t care what you do in your bedrooms. But be a dear and try not to put a legal gun to my head and force me to agree that your views and only your views are the only ones that are right at the potential cost of my livelihood.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Andrew Sullivan calls them “Christianists.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Homophobia is a mental disorder, not a “tenet of Christian belief.” This can be proven by the many Christian churches that want to marry same gender couples.

    Sorry, but no matter how anti-gays hide their desire to attack LGBT Americans as “freedom of religion,” we all know these laws are solely intended to encourage attacks on LGBT Americans.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Get real, DougH, baking a cake or arranging flowers is not being an “accessory.” It’s very telling you’d use the language of crime to describe the desire by a long-term committed same gender couple to be married and have the things most newlyweds have. Anti-gays routinely demean, demonize and dehumanize LGBT Americans that way.

    And, yes, Americans do have the right to lobby government to require public accommodations to treat all paying customers equally, just as anti-gays have the right to lobby their representatives too. Your problem is there are just too few anti-gays in many US States,and legislators ignore their demands for a special right to attack LGBT Americans. Please learn to accept that these provocations from the “Gay Obsessed Party” hasten its demise and nationwide laws that require all businesses to treat customers equally.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    But it’s OK for anti-gays to do that with this law, right? Anti-gays always expect special rights.

  • DougH

    Let me see if I got this right. Because the Christian churches whose membership is dropping agree with your position, those Christian churches whose membership is holding steady or growing that disagree with you aren’t doing so out of a sincere belief in literally millennia-old doctrines? You really need some lessons in logic.

  • DougH

    I deliberately used “accessory,” the “language of crime” as you say, to highlight that the concept that one can be complicit in an activity without being directly involved is fundamental to our concept of justice. The same concept works just as well for “sin” as it does for “crime,” and sin is undeniably religious. So yes, people insisting on the right to manage their businesses in accordance with their religion is solidly within the scope of the 1st Amendment’s mandate of reasonable accommodation of people’s exercising their religion.

  • Ben in oakland

    It’s a sin not to believe that Jesus died for your sins. It will land you a spot on the Eternal Barbeque just as surely as being gay will.

    So your fine with a certain class of so called Christian treating anyone who is not a certain class of so called Christian any way they wish?

    We have laws at every level of government forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious belief, whether sins or otherwise. Claiming that there are exceptions to those laws merely underlines why we have them in the first place.

  • Billysees

    Same sex marriage, same sex couples, LGBTs and just about anything to do with sex is the ‘push-the-panic-button’ requirement for religious conservatives.

    Why is that?

  • yoh

    Actually it does because that business license was designed to shield your commercial activities from your personal assets and liabilities. Either it is a separate person from you or your property. Neither of which have individual religious beliefs.

    Your right to free exercise never extended to license to attack others.

  • yoh

    If you are so deranged with bigotry against gays that you cat treat them as regular paying customers, you have no business being in open commerce. It puts you on our with any other bigot who wants segregated marketplace.

    Your freedom to act ends where you are trying to harm others. That right to wave a Bible around ends when you try hitting people with it.

  • yoh

    Then don’t seek special rights to discriminate in commerce. If you can’t treat paying customers with respect, you don’t belong in business.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    You didn’t “get it right,”DougH. Perhaps the most consistently homophobic sect is the Southern Baptist.

    “NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Southern Baptist Convention lost more than 200,000 members in 2014 and saw the lowest number of baptisms since 1947.

    Total membership in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination was just under 15.5 million last year, according to an annual report by Lifeway Christian Resources, the denomination’s publishing arm. That’s down from 15.7 million in 2013. It also marks the eighth straight year of declining membership.

    The number of baptisms has declined in eight of the past 10 years, according to the denomination. In 2014, baptisms declined by more than 5,000 to just over 305,000.”


  • CarrotCakeMan

    Please note that DougH also denigrated the many Christian denominations that reject homophobia and are marrying same gender American couples nationwide since the US Supreme Court revoked the last of the anti-gay Hate Votes that also denied these churches their genuine Freedom Of Religion.

    DougH wrote, “You really need some lessons in logic.” Considering DougH has chosen to demean, demonize and dehumanize LGBT Americans, same gender married couples as well as the many churches that marry same gender couples, it’s no surprise he has stooped to posting personal attacks toward someone who only debunked his deceptions. Anti-gays always fling insults when we reject their anti-gay political agenda they try to hide behind “freedom of religion.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Well, DougH, you can continue to demand that anti-gay businesses be accorded a special right to violate laws and attack LGBT Americans, but the fact is the US Supreme Court has upheld these laws many times as fully Constitutional–and the most notorious anti-gay justice has died. Please learn to accept your minority, very narrow definition that “sin” includes loving, committed same gender American married couples but doesn’t include anti-gays who break the law is irrelevant.

    And you’ve established a pattern in your comments here as well as the article about the Missouri GOP choosing the nuclear option to force this bill of demeaning, denigrating, demonizing and dehumanizing not only LGBT Americans but also the many churches that marry same gender couples. You misused the language of crime as a Freudian Slip. Americans are aware anti-gays still hope to “recriminalize” loving, committed same gender American married couples.

    You fool no one, DougH.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Anti-gays are deeply disturbed individuals. Psychologists identified homophobia as a mental illness and published their results in the Journal of the National Institutes of Health in 1953. Homophobia is the irrational fear, disgust, or hatred of gays, lesbians, and/or bisexual people, or of homosexual feelings in oneself. It refers to the discomfort one feels with any behavior, belief, or attitude (in self or others) that does not conform to traditional sex role stereotypes. Homophobia exhibits itself in the fear of knowing, befriending, or associating with gays, lesbians, or bisexual people; fear of being perceived as gay or lesbian; and/or fear of stepping out of accepted gender role behavior. Psychologists report that the most commonly observed symptom of the mental disorder homophobia is cognitive dissonance, an inability of those so afflicted to accept documentation that contradicts their deep-seated phobia and hatred of LGBT Americans.

  • Billysees

    Thanks for your interesting answer.