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Religious 'shield' proposal being blocked in the Missouri Senate

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
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Legislation designed to allow business owners and clergy to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings is being blocked in the Missouri Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 39 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the state from "penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex."

It's sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis.  He described the bill as "shield, not a sword," and said it's needed to counteract potential "negative consequences" of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

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Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
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"Justice (Samuel) Alito warned that those who dissent from the new doctrine will be labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools," Onder said during floor debate. "Their chief concern is that the power of government will be mobilized to penalize and persecute those who disagree."

Senate Democrats, including JasonHolsman of Kansas City, almost immediately launched a filibuster to block the proposal's passage.

"I represent a very large contingent of citizens who self-identify as either gay, or bi(sexual), or lesbian, or transgender," he said. "I look at this bill and I read it through their eyes, and when I read it through their eyes, I see a mean-spirited attempt to try and make the laws apply differently to me than they (do) for you."

The "you" Holsman was addressing was Onder, who responded that his bill would not harm the LGBT community or seek to revoke their right to marry.

The filibuster is now into its second day, having crossed the 24-hour mark just past 4.00 p.m. Tuesday. Democrats have been holding the floor for more than 20 hours; they're speaking against SJR 39, as well as on numerous other topics, including other bills, Donald Trump, slick roads, soft drink ads in foreign countries, and "Jesus sightings" in foreign objects.

The filibuster is also a hot topic on Twitter. From the Kansas City Star's Jason Hancock:

From Jolie Justus, the last openly gay member of the Missouri Senate:

Those supporting the amendment are also tweeting:

If the measure were to pass the General Assembly, it would have to be approved by voters before becoming part of the state constitution.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.