Missouri political leaders are reacting to the vote in a House Committee to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage objectors.
The proposal would have asked Missouri voters whether the state Constitution should bar penalties or lawsuits against business owners and religious organizations who decline to offer services in same-sex weddings.
In a statement, the sponsor of that resolution, Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis), said, “I am deeply disappointed that Missourians will not have the opportunity to vote on protecting religious freedom. Seven weeks ago, the Missouri Senate stood strong through the longest filibuster in state history and voted 23-7 to advance SJR 39. Today, House members caved to pressure from special interests and killed the religious freedom amendment. It is wrong that Missouri voters will be denied a voice in the decision making process.”
The measure would be handled in the House by Representative Paul Curtman (R-Union). He wrote, “Protecting the religious liberty of our people is a fundamental characteristic of our identity as Americans. Although today’s vote is a setback, the principles of personal freedom and true tolerance are ideas that have traditionally allowed our economy and society to prosper and I’m confident that the people of Missouri will continue to expect our government to protect these principles for generations to come. I’m thankful to Speaker Richardson and Representative Haahr for accommodating me and working with me in my effort to acquire support for this bill. Their statesmanship was unprecedented and I am truly grateful to them both.”
Three Republicans voted with Democrats in opposition to the resolution, and in a 6-6 vote it failed. One of those Repubilcans is Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). In a statement he said,
““I have spent most of my adult life in ministry; first as a full time Christian recording artist and second as the Worship Pastor at my church in Columbia. I disagreed with the bill as written and voted no. I did not believe SJR 39 was the right way to move our state forward at a time when the people of Missouri are looking for leadership on how to fix our roads, grow our economy, and keep our families safe.”
Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) chairs that committee, the House Committee on Emerging Issues, which took testimony for four hours on the issue two weeks ago and saw some members stay after the hearing formally adjourned to hear additional speakers.
Haahr wrote, “From the moment our committee received SJR 39, we made every effort to fairly and fully review the legislation and consider all sides of this important issue. My committee members took hours of testimony, and received hundreds of phone calls, and thousands of e-mails on both sides of this issue. While I personally supported SJR 39 and am disappointed in this result, I thank my members for their time and work. I will continue to personally fight for the protection of religious freedom in our state.”
House Speaker Todd Richardson wrote, “I want to thank the members of the Emerging Issues Committee for taking the time to thoroughly vet, discuss and debate the vitally important issue of religious freedom. As I said from the beginning, our goal was to respect the legislative process by allowing SJR 39 to be carefully deliberated by our members. While I am disappointed by today’s outcome, I understand this is a very difficult issue and I remain committed to fighting for the religious freedoms of all Missourians. I am confident this caucus will continue to pursue policy solutions to ensure these freedoms are protected.”
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) in reacting to the vote, said, “The House Emerging Issues Committee is to be commended for declining to advance Senate Joint Resolution 39. I know this was difficult decision for many committee members and that pressure was intense from all sides.
“The ultimate issue here is whether our state constitution protects all Missourians or grants special rights to some to detriment of others. In the years to come, I am confident today’s action will be remembered as being on the right side of history.”
Senate Democrats led a record filibuster against the resolution before Republicans forced a vote on it. Senate Democrat Leader Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) wrote, “Protection of one’s religious beliefs is a worthy discussion, but this bill was written with malice targeting one group. I am truly thankful that cooler heads prevailed among the supermajority.”
Governor Jay Nixon (D) called the vote today an, “important moment. Today’s action – to reject discrimination – will stand as an enduring example of goodness and of growing beyond past prejudices, while protecting people’s right to practice their faith. I thank everyone who was involved in this effort to protect the rights of all Missourians and stop this discriminatory measure.”