A proposal to placing an amendment to the Missouri state constitution on the November ballot provoked a 39-hour filibuster and intense lobbying before it finally passed on March 8th. Missourians will now have to decide whether religious organizations should be shielded from penalties if they oppose same sex marriage.
In particular, the bill “prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who act in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same sex marriage ceremony or allow a same sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization’s property.”
The proposal was a response to the US Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, last year, legalizing same-sex marriage. Republican senator Bob Onder, who sponsored the resolution, said it does not discriminate, but instead protects vulnerable religious institutions. “We are fighting for fairness and the right for people to freely live out their faith while not infringing on the rights of others.”
But the Supreme Court’s decision requires state law to allow same-sex marriage – it says nothing of obligations imposed on a church, for example, to perform its rituals for any couple who asks.
Among the Democrats who filled the 39 hours was a senator moved by a suspicion of the real motivation behind the law. According to state senator Joe Kenleavy, business will be able to claim religious status allowing florists, for example, to refuse bouquet sales to same-sex couples.
Those taking sides according to principle were joined by those moved by economic interests, who also weighed in on the issue. Missouri businesses opposed the measure, despite its conservative sponsors and the protection it represents, “against government intrusion.” These interests were concerned that the state could earn a “bigoted” reputation, and suffer the same way Indiana did, the year before, after passing its own “religious freedom” law.
Largely symbolic legislation is being simultaneously proposed and opposed by conservatives in other states. South Dakota’s Republican governor recently vetoed legislation that would require students in state schools to use only the restrooms allocated for their original gender. And the West Virginia legislature recently voted down a religious liberty bill after pressure from AT&T and Marriott, while Georgia’s Republican governor vetoed a similar bill in that state.
Meanwhile, over in Michigan, an animal rights bill was proposed that not only also criminalizes bestiality, but also sodomy between human beings. The bill describes “an abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal.” The ludicrous language was evident to all, but it stayed in there nonetheless, concerns over state reputation notwithstanding.