Missouri Senate Democrats’ attempt to block a measure regarding entities opposed to same-sex marriages has ended. Republicans called a rarely-used motion known as the previous question, which forces a vote on the issue before the body. That ended a more than 36-hour filibuster.
The resolution would ask Missouri voters if religious organizations and businesses should be exempt from penalties if they oppose gay weddings and refuse to offer goods and services based on sexual orientation. If approved by voters, the change would bar state and local governments from fining such an entity or ending its tax-exempt status for choosing not to conduct business with same-sex couples.
Republicans argue that the resolution offered by Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) is meant to keep the government out of the people’s business and protect churches from being forced into conducting gay marriages if that would be against their religious beliefs. Democrats argue that the measure underhandedly discriminates against same-sex couples and prevents them from doing business in the marketplace.
Debate on the measure began around 4:00 p.m. Monday and Democrats showed no signs Tuesday night of letting up. They held the floor until about 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, when Republicans called for a break. Around 7:30 a.m., Republicans called the previous question, which led to initial approval of the proposal by a vote of 23-9.
The previous question is a tactic considered controversial among those serving in the Senate. The chamber has prided itself on tradition, with one of those being to allow Senators to debate for as long as they want. Calling the previous question often leads to heightened emotions among those leading ongoing and passionate floor discussion.
The previous question was used by Republicans at the end of last year’s session on a right-to-work bill, which passed but didn’t have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto. After that was used, Democrats blocked debate over the final days of the session.