ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Yesterday, Sen. Bob Onder’s (R-Lake St. Louis) SJR 39 was voted out of the Seniors, Families and Children Committee. SJR 39 would create a constitutional amendment for a public, statewide vote, that would allow businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. SJR 39 would prohibit the state from penalizing religious institutions, clergy, and even private businesses from refusing to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married.

Existing state and federal laws already protect clergy and religious institutions, but SJR 39 expands those exemptions to private businesses, allowing individuals to pick and choose who they provide services to, based on religious beliefs.

This measure prevents municipalities throughout the state from enforcing longstanding local nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people any time a business claims a religious basis for refusing any kind of wedding-related service to a same-sex couple. In Missouri, there are 14 municipalities that have nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people in public accommodations. If SJR 39 passed, these nondiscrimination laws would be made obsolete. The municipalities that have nondiscrimination ordinances inclusive of LGBT people in Missouri are Columbia, St. Louis City, St. Louis County (unincorporated), Jackson County (unincorporated), Olivette, Creve Coeur, University City, Clayton, Kansas City, Kirksville, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Kirkwood, and Ferguson.

Per a recent report from Visit Indy, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana cost the city 60 million dollars and up to 12 conventions. The backlash from these bills passing would make Missouri a less appealing place to work, travel, and live, potentially costing the state millions of dollars.

“We strongly believe that religion is a fundamental value and right, especially for clergy and religious institutions, which is why it is protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in our existing Human Rights Act,” Steph Perkins, Executive Director of PROMO said. “But that same religion cannot and should not be used as a reason to discriminate or deny someone the same goods or services that are offered to the rest of the public. Our Missouri Human Rights Acts should be used to expand rights and freedoms to Missourians, not take them away. And that is what SJR 39 aims to do to thousands of Missourians.”

In addition to SJR 39, several other religious exemption bills have been filed in Missouri this session, including SB 916.

SJR 39 is on the Senate Perfection calendar for February 29, 2016.



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