Outward

Missouri State Dem’s Epic 39-Hour Religious Liberty Filibuster Draws Praise

A tweet from Dow against Missouri’s SJR39.

Dow Chemical/Twitter

On Wednesday, Republicans of the Missouri State Senate voted 23-9 in favor of a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would, according to its summary language, protect “certain religious organizations and individuals from being penalized by the state because of their sincere religious beliefs or practices concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex.” Apart from advancing a prime example of dubious “religious liberty” legislation, which opponents rightly point out could encourage anti-gay discrimination, the vote also brought an end to a record-breaking 39-hour Democratic filibuster against the measure. (Until then, the longest filibuster recorded in the state was 38 hours, which occurred in 1991 over legislation related to abortion.) The Senate is scheduled to take a final vote on Thursday; the bill will then need to pass in both the House and with voters in order to be confirmed as law.

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When Democratic senators—including Jamilah Nasheed, Jill Schupp, Scott Sifton, Jason Holsman, Chappelle-Nadal, Joseph Keaveny, and Kiki Curls—took control of the Senate floor Monday afternoon, they only had hopes of maintaining the filibuster for 24 hours. However, by trading off three-hour speaking shifts that BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden described as involving “eyedrops, watercolor painting, health care management, and, of course, the issue at hand,” the Democrats managed to keep ahold of the floor until early Wednesday morning. The GOP ultimately regained control using “previous question”—a procedural move that ends debate on a proposal by bringing it to an immediate vote.

Known as Senate Joint Resolution 39, the constitutional amendment covers a wide range of “religious organizations”—including, as Holden points out, those only religious “in part,” such as schools and charities, as well as broader categories like “entity” and “partnership.” Additionally, the proposal would protect individuals who “provide goods or services of expressional or artistic creation, such as a photographer or florist,” from being penalized for declining to contribute to a same-sex ceremony or even a “closely preceding or ensuing reception.”

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While the filibuster was not successful in preventing the bill’s advancement, the efforts of the Missouri Democrats did not go unnoticed. Both Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, tweeted in support of Missouri state senators on Wednesday, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also tweeted in solidarity with his fellow Democrats.

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Perhaps more powerfully, locally important corporations Monsanto and Dow Chemical joined with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce in expressing opposition to measure. The Chamber said in a statement that while it supported protections for clergy and true religious institutions (which, it’s worth remembering, already exist), “expanding protections to individuals and private businesses that voluntarily enter the stream of public commerce sends the message to the rest of the country that Missouri condones discrimination.”

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