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Missouri 'Religious Freedom' Bill Defeated In House Committee Vote

LGBT-rights supporters take part in a rally outside the Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo., on March 31. An amendment to the state Constitution protecting people who object to same-sex marriage failed in a committee vote on Wednesday, effectively killing the bill.
Jeff Roberson
/
AP
LGBT-rights supporters take part in a rally outside the Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo., on March 31. An amendment to the state Constitution protecting people who object to same-sex marriage failed in a committee vote on Wednesday, effectively killing the bill.

Missouri's so-called religious freedom bill may be dead for this year. The amendment to the state Constitution would have protected people who didn't want to provide services related to same-sex marriages, including clerks, clergy and businesses.

Wednesday's 6-6 vote by a House committee stopped the measure from advancing, The Associated Press reports. Three Republicans joined three Democrats in opposition, the AP says.

The bill, which had drawn criticism from LGBT-rights advocates and the business community, could technically be revived. But Marshall Griffin of St. Louis Public Radio says that is very unlikely this year, given that a lawmaker who voted "no" would have to be part of pushing the legislation forward again.

The bill has been so controversial, in part, because it specifically is aimed at protecting people who believe "marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman," rather broadly protecting religious freedom for all, as The Two-Way has explained. In addition, the bill guarantees that the state wouldn't punish someone for actions taken with certain beliefs in mind.

Before the Senate passed the legislation last month, Democrats filibustered for more than 36 hours, as The Two-Way reported. Senate Democrat Jason Holsman, among those who started the filibuster, said:

"I represent a very large contingent of citizens who self-identify as either gay, or bi[sexual], or lesbian, or transgender. ... I look at this bill and I read it through their eyes, and when I read it through their eyes, I see a mean-spirited attempt to try and make the laws apply differently to me than they [do] for you."

Wednesday, Democratic House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel said the committee vote "will be remembered as being on the right side of history," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On the conservative side, the Missouri Alliance for Freedom called the defeat "the opening salvo in a long war," in a statement posted online. "We are not finished. While today's results are not optimal we are not going anywhere. Religious freedom is not negotiable."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington
Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.