Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation, hailed the Missouri House Emerging Issues Committee for voting down Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39 – a measure that sought to enshrine state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people and their families into the Missouri Constitution. The extreme resolution would have led to a ballot measure that proposes to allow individuals, organisations, and businesses to use religion as a legal excuse to discriminate against LGBT people by broadly redefining the definition of religious organisations.
“We thank the House committee for listening to the overwhelming chorus of fair-minded Missourians, business leaders, and civil rights advocates who demanded they oppose this radical legislation that threatens severe harm to the entire state,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy & Political Affairs.“However, even with this vote today, we must remain diligent to ensure this discriminatory legislation does not move in any other way during the final two weeks of the legislative session.”
The opposition to SJR 39 was overwhelming. More than 60 leading CEOs and business executives signed onto an open letter urging lawmakers to stop the proposal that would have extreme negative consequences for Missouri’s economy, and numerous companies including Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto spoke out. In addition, SJR 39 has received widespread condemnation from fair-minded Missourians and civic leaders throughout the state, including Governor Jay Nixon, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the St. Louis Regional Chamber. The St. Louis Regional Chamber said the proposal is “counter to MO values & will have negative economic consequences.” Both Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also spoke out against the resolution.
SJR 39 went far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion, opening the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them.
For example, if SJR 39 had been voted into law, LGBT people and their families could have suddenly found themselves at risk of being denied many basic services. Taxpayer-funded foster care providers and adoption agencies could have refused to place children in need of loving homes with same-sex couples. Taxpayer-funded homeless shelters could have turned away LGBT couples and their families. Businesses could have also used it as cover to refuse to provide goods or services to same-sex couples. And, the measure could have undermined existing LGBT non-discrimination protections passed at the local level, including in cities like Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
While SJR 39 has been defeated, Missouri still lacks explicit, statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.