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House to Consider Anti-LGBT Resolution

The ACLU is speaking out against SJR 39, which would allow individuals, organizations and businesses to deny some services for LGBT people. (Derek Paulson)
The ACLU is speaking out against SJR 39, which would allow individuals, organizations and businesses to deny some services for LGBT people. (Derek Paulson)
March 14, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If SJR 39 wins approval in the Missouri House, state residents will vote on it later this year.

The bill would prohibit the state from penalizing a person or business that declines to provide a service for a same-sex couple.

Under the legislation, a cake decorator, for example, could refuse, on religious grounds, to provide a wedding cake.

Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy at the American Civil Liberties Union in Missouri, says the language in the bill goes even further, applying also to social service entities.

She says a homeless shelter with a religious affiliation could turn away a family in need.

"That homeless shelter can say, 'We're not going to let you, your wife and your children in here because it is against our religious beliefs that two women should be able to marry each other,'” Rossi explains. “And they can shut their doors on that couple and their family."

Missouri's governor has denounced the resolution and praised Democrats who filibustered against it for over 39 hours.

Republicans pushing the bill say it protects religious people from government penalties.

Rossi says Missouri lawmakers didn't learn a thing when the state of Indiana took a lot of heat for passing a religious freedom law last year.

"The 60 million (dollars) lost in revenue in Indiana, $500,000 that the state of Indiana had to spend on a PR firm to get them out of that mess, the 12 different conventions that Indiana lost," she points out.

Missouri's largest statewide business organizations have taken no position on the measure, though the St. Louis Regional Chamber has raised concerns.

Rossi says business owners and residents need to be worried.

"I don't think a lot of people realize the gravity of that, but they're going to, and it's going to make Missouri look really bad and unwelcoming," she states.

SJR 39 is expected to be approved in the House. From there, it will go to Missouri voters, either in the August primary or the November general election.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO