Missouri Republicans Block Religious Liberty Ballot for November

Paulo Torres, left, dances with his husband, Victor Tsang, right, after the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, June 28, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
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Jefferson City, MO

A small group of Missouri Republican legislators joined with Democrats to block a religious liberty ballot for November that was opposed by state business groups.

“It is unfortunate that Republican representatives who typically campaign as conservatives refused to govern that way,” said a statement from Ryan Johnson, president of the conservative Missouri Alliance for Freedom.

If it had passed, the Missouri bill would have skipped the Governor’s office and would have been presented straight to the voters appearing as a ballot initiative on Election Day.

Three Republican State Representatives joined Democrats to block Senate Joint Resolution 39, a measure that would have added a section to the state constitution protecting the rights of religious organizations and individuals from being penalized by the state for their religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage.

The measure passed the state Senate in March, despite a 36-hour filibuster.

The three Republicans are Rep. Anne Zerr of St. Charles, Rep. Caleb Rowden of Columbia, and Rep. Jim Hansen of Frankford.

“We recognize that this is an emotionally charged and personal issue for members of the Legislature, but they have a responsibility to rise above the rhetoric,” said Johnson. “Their votes to defeat religious liberty in spite of its overwhelming support by Missourians are a slap in the face to Missouri voters.”

The Alliance pledged to continue to fight for the measure.

The Heritage Foundation notes that business interests in the state also cast a large shadow over the measure. A large group of about 150 business interests, calling themselves Missouri Competes, called the measure “discrimination” against gays. Such big-name companies as Pfizer, MasterCard, and Marriott were included in the group

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.