60 Big-Name Businesses Join Coalition Against Missouri ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill

A logo sign outside of the headquarters of the Monsanto Company, in St. Louis, Missouri on August 16, 2015. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than 60 businesses including some of Missouri’s biggest corporate names joined a coalition opposed to state legislation that would protect businesses objecting on religious grounds to same-sex marriages, the latest sign of a backlash against such proposals across the country.

Agricultural giant Monsanto, prescription drug benefits manager Express Scripts, and pet food maker Nestle Purina are among employers to join the recently formed Missouri Competes, according to gay rights advocacy group PROMO, which released the list just hours before a House committee heard testimony from business, sports and religious groups. Dozens crammed in the Capitol basement for the late-night hearing.

The formation of the coalition comes amid business pushback to legislation in other states protecting those opposed to gay marriage.

Several states and cities have banned travel to Mississippi in response to a law signed by the Republican governor last week to let workers cite religious beliefs to deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the Missouri measure, has pointed to Indiana as another example of the business backlash. A public-private tourism group has estimated that Indiana lost $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenues and other economic benefits after Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence last year signed religious-objections legislation.

Leaders of utility company Ameren and BJC HealthCare are among those who signed a letter earlier this month in opposition to business provisions in the Missouri measure.

Supporters argue the Missouri law is intentionally narrower than laws passed in other states and is necessary to protect some businesses from being forced to violate religious beliefs.

The proposal would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to ban government penalties against businesses that cite religion while declining goods or services of “expressional or artistic creation” for same-sex weddings. That would include florists and photographers.

The measure comes after bakers and florists have faced legal challenges in other states for declining to provide services for same-sex weddings. It also would shield clergy, places of worship and other religious organizations from being penalized for not participating in marriages involving same-sex partners.

In written testimony addressed to House committee members reviewing the bill, the Missouri Catholic Conference said “no person should be forced to personally attend and participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony if this violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Lee’s Summit pastor Phil Hopper was among religious leaders who backed the measure Tuesday.

“We cannot give one group of people certain rights and take away the rights of others that they’ve had for generations,” Hopper said.

Opponents say the legislation would enshrine discrimination in the Constitution.

Hart Nelson, the vice president of public policy at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said in a Tuesday statement that the legislation threatens the state’s reputation and could make it difficult for businesses to recruit candidates for jobs.

St. Louis-based Monsanto has criticized the measure as an economic hindrance. Lobbyist Duane Simpson noted the company includes gender identity and sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy and backs adopting similar policies statewide.

“We have employees who are members of the LGBT community, and, frankly, we’re going to stand up for them,” Simpson said during the hearing.

Republican Rep. Anne Zerr, chairwoman of a House commerce committee said, “talent is gay and straight.” She also voiced concerns that enacting the measure would harm the state during the hearing, which stretched past midnight.

But Republican bill sponsor Sen. Bob Onder said the concerns were “overblown and hyperbole.”

“Missourians are going to resent being bullied by corporate elites,” Onder said. He went on to say that “consumers are going to wake up and start boycotting these companies.”

Onder also cited support from the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the only Republican who holds statewide office and a candidate for governor, spoke in favor of the legislation and said it should be up to voters to decide.

“This is not about discrimination, as opponents are trying to spin it,” Kinder said. He later said that “nobody’s trying to punish gays.”

The measure passed the Senate in March following a failed 37-hour filibuster by Democrats. If passed by the GOP-led House, it would sidestep Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and head to voters this year.

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Missouri religious protection measure is SJR 39

Online:

Senate: http://www.senate.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Notable Replies

  1. Sen. Bob Onder - “Missourians are going to resent being bullied by corporate elites,”
    Onder said. He went on to say that “consumers are going to wake up and
    start boycotting these companies.”

    Boycotting companies for supporting equal rights that the majority of Americans support? The derp runs deep in the state of Missouri. Now don’t jump on me for singling out MO–the derp runs deep in a lot of state governments. MO is just the target of the day.

  2. At least in Missouri there is still a viable firewall against the worst of the derp. In Kansas, the derp has won. Many of my friends have moved across the state line, and we are definitely going to do so if the next two election cycles don’t produce a change.

  3. “Missourians are going to resent being bullied by corporate elites,” Onder said. He went on to say that “consumers are going to wake up and start boycotting these companies.”

    So, you’re saying that one half of the buyer-seller transaction should take its business elsewhere if it dislikes the behavior, statements, or positions of the other?

    Well, Monsanto agrees. Free-market, baby.

    Also, Missouri is going to boycott Monsanto and Purina? Yeah, I don’t think so. It’s just good that MO doesn’t have any large cities or major sports franchises that bring in millions of dollars of tourist revenue, because the loss of that could put a serious dent in the state’s GDP.

  4. Hilarious. I suppose this idiot thinks no one is going to buy Monsanto’s Round UP now, the most prolific and widespread used fertilizer in the state and entire planet. Go ahead. Let your crops die and gardens eaten up by worms, don’t use any Monsanto products (I wish the entire planet would boycott Monsanto and their GMO’s, actually, but the company has serious clout in MO, and in the USA’s corrupt congress of course).

  5. Avatar for wjl wjl says:

    Uh, just a moment, The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most successful baseball franchises in the league. And we lost the Rams to LA way before this. The Chiefs and the Royals still live in Kansas City. The Blues are about to start the playoffs.

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