Just before noon of the first day of debate over SJR 39, Sen. Bob Onder’s religious freedom constitutional amendment resolution, Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, one of the Democrats fighting against the resolution, sat down with the Missouri Times to answer just how far the party was willing to go to fight what they saw as an act of discrimination.
The Missouri Times: How has your family contributed to your thoughts on this bill?
Sen. Scott Sifton: I would oppose this amendment just as vigorously even if I didn’t have immediate family members who are potentially implicated by it. I honor who my father is, I honor who my uncle is and I stand and fight not just for them, but also for the thousands of constituents I have that are very much targeted by this amendment.
TMT: How long are you all willing to go?
Sifton: Compromise hasn’t been an option at this point because there’s been no negotiation by either side. Nobody’s offering to even talk at this point. In the absence of any discussion of what this amendment could look like, our only options are to pass it or to not, and we’re not going to let it pass.
TMT: If that amendment you offered last night was adopted, would that make the law acceptable for Democrats?
Sifton: What this [underlying constitutional] amendment does is it picks out one religious belief that is held by some and elevates it above every other religious belief of any kind in the state. If it’s adopted, we give very robust protections to one form of religious based discrimination and to the exclusion of all other points of view, not only on that issue but on all issues of faith. I don’t think we in the Senate should be in the business of protecting which religious beliefs deserve protection and which ones don’t.
TMT: Are there any changes to this underlying amendment that would make it palatable for Democrats? What kind of changes could you see?
Sifton: At this point, I am not persuaded we have a counterpart that is even willing to entertain the possibility of revising this proposal, so I think at this point that’s a hypothetical or academic question. Just for the fact the amendment has been on the floor for 20 hours now tells you there’s not a lot of interest in getting this resolved anytime soon by the Republican majority.
TMT: If this gets to Thursday night at 5 o’clock, what happens to the bill?
Sifton: I don’t see where we have to adjourn at 5:00 on Thursday. I’d have to double check the Senate rules on that, but I think the only hard deadline on this is 6 o’clock on Friday, May 13.