Debate began in the Senate more than 27 hours ago on a measure that would ask Missouri voters if religious organizations and businesses should be protected from penalties if they decline to officiate or facilitate venues for same-sex marriages. If approved by voters, the change would bar state and local governments from fining or dismissing an entity’s tax-exempt status for choosing not to conduct business with gay couples.
As each hour passes, Senators take turns sitting in on debate with the hopes of parties working out a compromise behind closed doors.
Republicans argue that the resolution is meant to keep the government out of the people’s business while Democrats argue that the measure underhandedly chips away at the rights of same-sex couples.
Senator Ed Emery (R-Lamar) and Senator Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) agreed to disagree on the measure.
“It’s hard for me to understand how this is discriminatory when there is no discriminatory language in here. There’s only protection language,” said Emery.
Schupp argued that the bill protects one group but takes away protections of another.
“It takes away the ability of gay and lesbian couples to participate in the marketplace, to go to a store and be treated as every other person who would walk into that store and want to purchase something is treated,” said Schupp.
“It doesn’t stop them from buying a wedding cake. It doesn’t stop them from getting married. It doesn’t stop them from buying flowers,” said Emery.
“It stops them from buying a wedding cake at the place they went,” said Schupp.
“Then buy it somewhere else,” said Emery. The law doesn’t tell me that I’m authorized to do what I want anywhere I want. There are places that I can drive 70 miles per hour. There are other places that I can’t,” said Emery.
Senator Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) views the intent of the resolution much the way Schupp does.
“It reminds me of signs back in the 60s saying whites only or blacks only in the back of the restaurant. When I look at this and I think of the potential to what this opens the door to, I see that,” said Curls.
“What do you think this opens the door to?” asked Emery.
“Maybe there’s a sign in the back that says straight couples only or this section is for gays,” said Curls.
If the Legislature approves Senator Bob Onder’s bill, Missourians would likely vote on the issue in either August or November.