Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri has come out against religious exemptions for business owners who are against gay marriage, stating that a constitutional amendment allowing these would be harmful to the state's economy.
The governor's comments come after Missouri’s Republican-led Senate passed an initial approval of the measure, which is expected to go to the House for consideration, according to the Associated Press. If it is passed there, the bill will appear before state voters in either the August primary or on the November general election ballot.
The proposed law has been framed as providing greater religious protections to individuals, organizations and business owners who see same-sex marriage as conflicting with their religious beliefs. It would prevent the government from penalizing people who decline to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples by citing a “sincere religious belief”. Clergy and places of worship would also be exempted from providing these services if the law is passed.
"No one should be compelled to make a work with their own hands that's offensive to their beliefs," Republican sponsor Sen. Bob Onder said, according to the AP.
Debate on the bill began on March 7, and culminated in a 37-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats who opposed the measure, according to AP. However, a rare procedural move by Republicans, who drafted a new version of the bill, ended the debate on March 9 and forced a vote. The revised document specified that marriage “services” include the reception as well as the marriage ceremony, and listed several types of businesses as examples.
Nixon, a Democrat, has opposed the measure on moral as well as economic grounds, stating that it would unfairly discriminate against same-sex couples seeking marriage services in Missouri.
"Rewriting our state's constitution to condone discrimination would be contrary to our values and harmful to our economy," Nixon said in an emailed statement on March 9, according to AP.