The Missouri Senate began debate around 4 p.m. Monday on a religious freedom bill involving same sex couples. Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) proposes asking voters if religious organizations and businesses should be protected for refusing to conduct wedding ceremonies or provide venues for gay couples.
Thirteen hours into a filibuster, the Senate’s eight Democrats were still going strong with no indications of retreating.
Under Onder’s proposal, state and local governments would not be allowed to fine or terminate tax exempt status for those that decline to serve same sex couples seeking marriage.
“I don’t think, to put it simply, the state should decide what views of marriage are acceptable and what views aren’t acceptable and then proceed to punish those who disagree,” said Onder.
Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) said Onder is playing on words.
“You do not have a right to discriminate on a person simply because of who they love,” said Nasheed.
“Where do you see that in my bill,” asked Onder.
“It’s subtle, just like racism is subtle sometimes. It may not be written there, but it has all the makings of discrimination,” said Nasheed.
Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) agrees that the bill would discriminate against those based on their sexuality.
“It’s altogether plausible that people who don’t have those same motivations to deny the services, will come together with an intellectual effort to try to justify that denial,” said Holsman.
“They may say ‘It’s not that I think that gay people should be discriminated against, but if they are going to be discriminated against, then let’s do it in the most legal way possible.’”
Onder listed several organizations that support his bill, including the Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri Baptist Convention and the Farm Bureau.
“Which of us are these mean spirited people? By the time that you add all of these groups of supporters together, you have about three million Americans. To attribute to all of those folks, minus me, some sort of bigoted motivation, I don’t think is fair,” said Onder.
If the Legislature approves Onder’s proposed constitutional amendment, Missourians would likely vote on the issue in either August or November.