JEFFERSON CITY — LGBTQ advocates and allies rallied Thursday morning in front of the statehouse to encourage the House of Representatives to reject SJR 39 before delivering 4,225 petitions to Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.
Around one hundred people attended the rally and heard from Promoting Equality for All Missourians (PROMO), the ACLU of Missouri, clergy, businesses and other members of the LGBTQ community.
“When you see this many folk turning out on a rainy Wednesday in Jefferson City, you know the issue matters,” said Jeffrey Mittman “It underscores the point, this is not about religious freedom. This is pure and simple discrimination.”
SJR 39 passed the Senate March 10 after a contentious 39 hour filibuster by Senate Democrats. It was referred to the House Emerging Issues Committee Wednesday, and the committee’s chair, Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, also received the 4,225 petitions Thursday.
“We’re going to treat this, as I said to some folks before the break, it’s going to be treated like the other pieces of legislation that come from the Senate and we’ll see how House members feel about it, but I’m sure it will get a full and thorough vetting when it goes through committee,” Richardson said Thursday afternoon about the bill.
There was a sense of hope at the rally that support from the business community could help turn the tide against the bill in the House, especially after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill this week after pressure from business. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also vetoed similar legislation Wednesday.
The Kansas City Sports Commission estimated earlier this week that the bill could cost the city as much as $50 million.
“I think when you look at Georgia where the governor vetoed the bill because he knew it would destroy business, I think it sends a strong message,” Mittman said.
Keith Rose, who came to the rally from St. Louis, underscored the potential business impact. He’s planning on getting engaged soon and said the fate of the bill could determine whether he gets married in Missouri or Illinois.
“We could easily go across the border and I think that’s what we might end up doing,” he said.
Advocates also warned attendees not to be fooled by those describing the bill as narrowly tailored to just those in the wedding industry.
Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy for the ACLU of Missouri, warned that the LGBTQ community not have the wool pulled over their eyes. “It is a huge deal. It enshrines discrimination into our constitution.”
Rev. Wes Mullins of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis went further, comparing anti-gay bills to ISIS.
“This is the very road to radical religious extremism,” he said. “It’s bigotry is waving the false flag of religious freedom.”
The group also gathered in recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility, hearing members of the trans community speak.