Updated at 4:15 p.m. with comments from House Emerging Issues Committee chairman.
JEFFERSON CITY • More business leaders are coming out in opposition to a resolution in the Missouri Legislature that would grant greater legal protections to those opposed to same-sex marriage.
Senate Joint Resolution 39, or SJR 39, gained national attention after Senate Democrats staged a 37-hour filibuster last month in an effort to kill the bill. But Senate Republicans were able to force a vote using a rare parliamentary maneuver.
The resolution then passed the Senate on a party-line 23-7 vote. If it passes the House, voters would be asked in either August or November whether clergy, wedding vendors and certain "religious organizations" should be shielded from legal liability and government penalties if they decline to service same-sex weddings.
Critics have said that the denial of service could extend far beyond peoples' wedding days, and that the definition of "religious organization," which includes schools, hospitals, charities and other religious entities is too broad.
The resolution has been referred to the House Emerging Issues Committee, but has yet to receive a hearing. On Sunday, several local and national business leaders penned an open letter to committee chair Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield.
"While we understand the desire to protect clergy and religious institutions from having to perform ceremonies counter to their beliefs, 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. We urge you to amend SJR39 to remove these provisions," the letter reads, in part.
The signees include executives from some of the St. Louis area's most well-known companies, including Edward Jones, Monsanto, Express Scripts, Ameren and BJC HealthCare.
St. Louis native Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter and CEO of Square, which recently opened an office in St. Louis, also signed on.
During the Senate filibuster, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Monsanto and and the Dow Chemical Company tweeted their opposition to the measure. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry also opposes the SJR.
Haahr said Wednesday that his committee would consider the bill, but that "we've not made any decision about what we're going to do" regarding the most controversial parts of the measure.
Haahr said that when there is a hearing, the committee would most likely not hear testimony and vote on the bill on the same day, giving members time to reflect on different arguments.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states has sparked a wave of similar proposals in state legislatures around the country.
In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have allowed certain people, businesses and faith organizations to deny services on religious grounds. The Georgia bill received opposition from business groups.
In North Carolina and Mississippi, Republican governors have signed similar bills despite business backlash.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has voiced opposition to SJR 39, but on this he won't get to use his veto pen. The measure, if passed, would bypass the governor and be sent to an electorate that in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriage with more than 70 percent of the vote.
The complete list of signees:
- Warner L. Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corporation
- John R. Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri
- Steven H. Lipstein, president and CEO of BJC HealthCare
- Jerald L. Kent, chairman and CEO of Cequel III, LLC
- David Kemper, chairman and CEO of Commerce Bank
- Larry Ryan, president, energy and water solutions, The Dow Chemical Company
- David P. Hatfield, president and CEO of Edgewell Personal Care Company
- James D. Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones
- George Paz, chairman and CEO of Express Scripts
- Sam Fox, founder of Harbor Group
- Mark Trudeau, president and CEO of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals
- Rob reeg, president, MasterCard operations and technology
- Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO of Monsanto Company
- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square
- Joe Reagan, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber
- James G. Powers, president of UniGroup
- Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis