JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The single largest business association in Missouri has announced their opposition to SJR 39.
Business leaders and organizations from around the state have spoken out against the resolution, and Thursday at noon, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce released the reasons they would oppose the legislation.
“The Missouri Chamber opposes adding a constitutional protection for employees who refuse to do their jobs,” the organization said in a statement. The group added that they had offered to repeal certain parts of the resolution that would protect employers from increased litigation and remove the business community from the effects of the legislation.
They were unable to get any of those changes into the legislation passed by the Senate.
“Despite the technical changes in the resolution, the Missouri Chamber cannot ignore the detrimental impact this would have on our state’s economy,” the statement continued. “For those reasons, the Missouri Chamber opposes Senate Joint Resolution 39 in its current form and will continue to work with legislators in both chambers to allay the concerns of the business community.”
The controversial constitutional amendment aims to protect “religious liberties” by allowing vendors to withhold their goods and services if those goods and services would be used for same-sex weddings in violation of sincerely held religious beliefs.
The resolution passed out of the Senate last week after nearly a 40-hour filibuster by Democrats opposed to the measure. The filibuster may have continued for much longer had the Senate majority used the previous question motion to end debate early.
The Senate has all but stagnated as a result.
The legislation has moved onto the House, and both Republican and House leadership seem eager to mirror their Senate counterparts’ stances on the bill.
Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said he would take the Missouri Chamber’s decision into consideration, but intoned that House Republicans would fight for the legislation.
“I’d ask them to take a hard look at what’s in the bill,” he said. “Religious liberty is an important principle and we want to get that principle right. We understand this is going to be an issue that’s going to cause intense feelings on both sides of the issue… We welcome input on every issue from a wide selection of people.”
Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, called the bill a form of discrimination Republicans were trying to codify into the state Constitution and warned about the negative economic ramifications the resolution could have.
“We’re currently trying to save 3,000 jobs in the city of St. Louis by keeping the National Geospatial Agency from moving to Illinois,” he said. “I desperately hope that this doesn’t send the wrong message to D.C. and give them an excuse or a reason to send the Geospatial Agency to the state of Illinois.
“We all saw what happened in Indiana when they passed similar legislation. In a matter of weeks, they lost $60 million in convention business…. This is a potentially devastating hit to Missouri’s economy.”
Hummel also said he believed some Republican representatives had their own misgivings about the legislation.
Richardson said SJR 39 would be referred to committee after the break.