Missouri religious objections measure passes Senate

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 9:31 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — After a failed 37-hour filibuster by Democrats, the Missouri Senate on Thursday passed a proposal to add greater religious protections to the state constitution for some business owners and individuals opposed to gay marriage.

Senators voted 23-7 along party lines to give the measure final approval after the Democratic filibuster ground work in the chamber to a halt.

Division over the measure highlights national debate over how to balance civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and religious liberties following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that legalized same-sex marriages in all states.

At issue is legislation to amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit government penalties against those who cite a "sincere religious belief" while declining to provide goods and services for same-sex marriage ceremonies or ensuing celebrations. The measure cites photographers and florists as examples of those who could be covered. It would also shield clergy and worship places that decline to participate in such weddings.

Democrats, who argued it would allow discrimination against LGBT people, stalled an initial vote on the measure from Monday afternoon to early Wednesday, when Republicans used a rare procedural move to end what was the longest continuous filibuster in recent state history.

On Thursday, action by Democrats continued to delay work in the Senate. Pushback included nearly six hours spent reviewing and debating what's in the official state record of Senate action this past week before the measure came up for a final vote.

The proposal, which could go before voters as a ballot measure this year, is among the latest efforts by Republican lawmakers in some states in reaction to the high court's ruling.

Republican sponsor Sen. Bob Onder said that since then, ordinances barring discrimination against gays and lesbians have been used against people of religious faith. His bill is "a shield, not a sword," Onder said Thursday.

The proposal now heads to the House, where it has support from the Republican speaker and appears likely to pass. House Democrats don't have the same filibuster powers as senators.

If passed by the Legislature, it would be on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide either in the August primary or November general election.