Mar 09, 2016

The Missouri Senate this morning adopted a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would foster discrimination under the guise of protecting religious freedom.

The vote came after eight state senators launched a nearly 40-hour-long filibuster to block the measure. Americans United for Separation of Church and State criticized the vote and vowed to work to stop the proposed amendment, SJR 39.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Missouri Senate adopted SJR 39, which would enshrine discrimination into the Missouri Constitution,” said Maggie Garrett, AU’s legislative director. “Yet, the eight senators who stood and fought against this resolution for 39 hours have inspired us and given us hope. We will continue to fight SJR 39 and to help protect the rights of everyone in Missouri. Religion is no excuse to discriminate.”

The amendment purports to protect the rights of religious people. But it’s actually a license to use “religious liberty” as an excuse to deny goods and services to LGBT residents of Missouri, says Americans United.

The amendment must win apporval from the Missouri House and would have to be approved by voters as a ballot measure. Americans United has vowed to continue opposing it, saying it will codify discrimination and could spark a backlash.

“Other states that have passed discriminatory measures like this have seen businesses threaten to pull up and leave,” Garrett said. “There’s one thing we can show Missourians for sure: Anti-LGBT policies are bad for the bottom line.”

Americans United runs a special project, “Protect Thy Neighbor,” which is designed to combat the use of religion as a device to harm others or take away their rights. The project includes a legislative tool that tracks discriminatory measures across the nation. Learn more at protectthyneighbor.org