SJR 39 is a bill that would add LGBT discrimination into the state constitution by way of a public vote. Missouri Senate Democrats held a record-breaking 39 hour filibuster of the anti-LGBT bill. Unfortunately, the Senate still forced a vote on the bill, and it was passed out of the Senate in a vote of 23-9.
SJR 39 attempts to add an amendment to the Missouri state constitution that would allow organizations and private businesses that provide wedding services to use religious beliefs in order to legally refuse service to same-sex couples. This includes bakeries and florists, but it could also include restaurants for your reception or dinner rehearsal or craft stores for your supplies. If passed in the House, this issue would be added immediately added to the August or November ballot, and your rights would be up for a public vote.
Currently, the Missouri Human Rights Act does not protect LGBT individuals and families. Without the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), which we continue to work to pass, private businesses across the state already have the right to refuse services to LGBT people for any reason. However, many municipalities across Missouri do protect LGBT people. SJR 39 would make these municipalities unable to enforce their own ordinance.
This means that across the state, including in cities where nondiscrimination ordinances already exist, like Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, Maplewood, Ferguson, Kirksville, and eight others, private businesses could use religious beliefs as a reason to refuse services to LGBT couples getting married. These could be refused to all same-sex couples, or just some couples, all at the whim of the owner.
Current laws already exempt pastors and religious organizations from nondiscrimination laws altogether. Pastors, clergy, and churches do not have to perform marriages of any kind, including for a same-sex couple.
This danger is expounded by the fact that this bill aims to add these harmful actions to our state constitution by a public vote.