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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 18
Missouri House committee kills 'Freedom to Discriminate' bill
Section One
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Missouri House committee kills 'Freedom to Discriminate' bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A committee of the Missouri House of Representatives has killed that state's so-called 'religious freedom' bill.

The House Emerging Issues Committee deadlocked 6-6 on SJR 39, a measure that would have allowed religious beliefs to be used as a legal excuse for discrimination against LGBT residents of Missouri. The bill will not advance to the floor of the House.

The committee held a four-hour hearing on the legislation April 12, with business leaders adding their voices to those of human rights advocates in opposition to the bill.

Among the groups testifying against SJR 39 were the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Sporting Commission, the St. Louis Sporting Commission, Monsanto, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, and the Visit KC tourist bureau.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber said the proposal is 'counter to Missouri values and will have negative economic consequences.'

In addition, more than 60 leading CEOs and business executives signed onto an open letter urging lawmakers to stop the proposal, saying it would have extreme negative consequences for Missouri's economy.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also opposed the measure.

PROMO Missouri, an LGBT rights group, said it was 'grateful to the Emerging Issues Committee for searching their hearts, listening to both sides of this issue, and doing the right thing today by opposing SJR 39.'

HRC applauded the committee vote while warning that the measure might still advance through another legislative channel.

'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 and 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.' In the year since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed his state's 'religious freedom' bill, similar measures have been introduced in at least 16 states.

Twenty states already had laws on the books prior to 2015, but almost all of them were modeled on a federal law that restricted government actions impinging on religious beliefs. The more recent measures have been designed to entitle individuals to refuse accommodations and services to LGBT people.

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