After 39-Hour Filibuster From Missouri's Democrats, Republicans Still Pass Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill

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After an almost two day long, record-breaking filibuster on the Missouri senate floor, the state’s Democratic senators ended after Republicans forced a vote on SJR 39, a bill that allows organizations in the state to discriminate against same-sex couples on the grounds of religious freedom.

Passed to a 21-11 vote this morning, Republican legislators argued that the amendment “protects religious people from government penalties,” The Huffington Post reports.

Specifically, the bill proposed an amendment to the state’s official constitution, prohibiting Missouri from “penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex.”

The White House’s press secretary Josh Earnest spoke briefly about the issue when asked, though he clarified that he wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the bill. According to Earnest, the bill appears to be “inconsistent with the values of justice and fairness and equality that this administration has long pursued.”

The bill will not go into effect as of yet, as it still must get through a second vote by the Senate and the House, both of which are GOP-led. Missouri’s voters will then have their say about the issue in either the August primary or November’s general election.

Members of the state’s business communities, as well as faith leaders and local organizations have already come out against these bills, signing a letter last week urging their representatives to not to pass SJR 39.

The bill comes at a time when other states are grappling with how to handle the refusal of some businesses and organizations to offer homosexual couples their services. If passed, the bill would allow taxpayer-funded entities and government employees, such as state-contracted counselors, foster care agencies, and homeless shelters, to deny services to individuals in legally recognized same-sex partnerships. Individuals could even have their state benefits declined to them, all in the name of “religious freedom.”

The state’s current legislative session runs through mid-May, giving lawmakers time to amend the bill.