Senate Advances Legislation Protecting Religious Freedom
On Monday afternoon, the Missouri Senate took up Senate Joint Resolution 39 for consideration. The legislation asks Missouri voters to consider a new constitutional amendment protecting religious organizations and certain individuals from being penalized because of their sincere religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges has left some Missourians vulnerable in expressing their First Amendment rights related to their religious beliefs. As representatives of the citizens who elected us, my Senate colleagues and I believe we have the right and the duty to protect our religious liberties. Senate Joint Resolution 39 is about liberty; it is not about discrimination.
Contrary to what others have said, SJR 39 is entirely defensive. It is a shield, not a sword. The measure is also very narrowly targeted. In scope, it only protects religious organizations, including churches, clergy and their employees, and some wedding vendors. A wedding vendor is protected only if the vendor does not want to be forced to be a participant in a wedding ceremony or reception by providing goods or services of an expressional or artistic nature.
After a record setting 37-hour filibuster and days of non-stop debate, we successfully advanced SJR 39 to the House, moving Missourians one step closer to a vote on further protecting their religious liberty — the cornerstone on which our country was founded.
This past week may have been difficult, but it was also a big win for religious freedom in the Show-Me State. And at the end of the day, nothing is more sacred than our right to live our lives in accordance with our faith.
With approval from the Senate, the amendment now moves to the House for consideration. If approved, Missourians will get a chance to have their voices heard when they vote on the measure in August or November.
In other legislative news, I was pleased to welcome to the Capitol members of the 2015-2016 Coro Fellows Class. These recent college graduates are participating in a full-time, nine-month public affairs training program. As part of their State Affairs Week, they came to Jefferson City to gain a better understanding of policymaking and governance at the state level.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2173. You may write to me at Senator Ron Richard, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 326, Jefferson City, MO 65101; e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me on the Web at www.senate.mo.gov/richard.