Local legislators support amendment
Voters may get say on businesses being penalized for refusing service to same-sex couples
Both Barry County legislators support a resolution that aims to prohibit the state from penalizing on organizations who act in accordance with their religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage.
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, is a co-sponsor of the Senate Joint Resolution 39 and voted for it to pass through the Senate.
"I think the House will pass it as-is, but we will see," he said. "It's about religious conscience, and I think we have been discriminating against people who have religious beliefs and do not want to participate in gay marriages. I want to protect the clergy and institution of the church, and that would include the use of a church's gym or fellowship hall. And, I feel as though people like photographers and bakers should not be forced to participate in gay marriages."
The summary of SJR 39 says it "prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who acts 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 state cannot penalize an individual who declines, due to sincere religious beliefs, to provide goods of expressional or artistic creation for a same sex wedding or wedding reception."
The resolution does not allow a hospital to refuse to treat a marriage as valid for the purposes of a spouse's right to visitation or to make health care decisions.
If passed through the House, SJR 39 would bypass the governor's desk and be put on the November General Election ballot for Missouri voters to decide.
State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said last week he had not fully read the bill, and it has not gone to committee in the House yet.
"I would probably support it because of issues in other states with photographers and bakers not wanting to [give services] to same-sex couples," he said. "Could the same-sex couples just get someone else? There is freedom up to the point it impacts someone else's freedom."
Opponents of the bill say it would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.
"I think man does elevate certain sins," he said. "But, this deals just with gay marriage. The object is just to protect the rights of people with religious convictions."
The economic impact of such a measure is another reason the opposition hopes it fails. Indiana rolled back a similar law after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and other businesses said they would not hold events in the state. The NCAA is also monitoring Missouri's measure.
"That's not something I worry about," Sater said. "Some big companies that have come out against these bills, like Monsanto and Verizon, have backed down now, and they say it's not enough of an issue to fight. I just want to stand up for what I believe in."
Sater said he heard about Monsanto and Verizon backing down from the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, and the companies are still not in favor of the bill, but have toned down their opposition.
"I think he was trying to get across that they were pretty vocal at first, and now they're just not as vocal as they were before," Sater said.
Fitzpatrick said he is less concerned about an adverse economic impact as well, and had reservations as to whether the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City would remain there in future years, regardless of whether the measure passes.
"Religious freedom is more important than basketball, and if that's what the NCAA chooses to do, that's what it chooses to do," he said. "I'd be surprised if the Big 12 tournament remains in Kansas City more than another two years anyway."
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Emerging Issues, but it had not received any action as of Friday.
Sater represents Senate District 29, which includes Barry, Lawrence, McDonald, Stone and Taney counties.
Fitzpatrick represents House District 158, which includes Barry County and portions of Stone and Lawrence counties, including the western portion of Pierce City.