A state House committee vote has killed SJR 39, the controversial proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that, backers said, would have protected those who denied for religious reasons services to same-sex weddings. Opponents said it would have protected discrimination against the LGBT community.
The committee vote was split 6-6, so the resolution was defeated. Three Republicans – Jim Hansen (R-Frankford), Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), and Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) – voted against the resolution.
The vote was preceded by emotional statements from several legislators, including Hansen.
“You know they call it ‘religious freedom,’ I feel that I’m free in this country to worship the way I want and I don’t need a law to tell me how to worship. I don’t need a law passed to make it legal to be a Christian,” said Hansen. “This law’s, to me, asking me to play God, and I’m not God. I am not God.”
“I have family that’s in this situation,” said Hansen.
The only African-American member of the committee, Sharon Pace (D-St. Louis), compared the potential effect of the resolution to those of segregation.
“I’ve heard people on the committee saying, ‘Well if they won’t serve you one place, go to another. That doesn’t work here. Where were we when we had the water fountains that we had to go to – African Americans – the restrooms that we had to go to, we didn’t have another place to go. We had to go there. We were abused. This bill is nothing less,” said Pace. “To sit here and separate us the way were doing, it’s just appalling and it’s hurtful.”
Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis), the only openly gay member of the state House, said the issue had been emotionally taxing for all members of the committee. He said the vote reflected, “what Missouri is really all about.”
“Some issues transcend politics, and my hope has always been that if you give people enough and accurate information, have faith in them, and the right thing will happen,” said Colona. “I think if this were to go to a vote of the people you would see the same result. This would go down in flames.”
SJR 39 passed the state Senate earlier this year after a record filibuster by Democrats, who continued to slow business in that chamber for days after Republicans forced an end to that filibuster and a vote on the resolution.