Missouri Democrats stall religious objections vote

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —  Missouri Democrats are dragging out even the most mundane daily tasks in the Republican-led Senate, effectively delaying final approval of a religious objections proposal after the longest continuous filibuster in recent state history failed to block it earlier this week.

Senate staff spent roughly 40 minutes Thursday reading 19 pages of the official record of Senate action this past week following a request from Democrats. Senators then debated for three hours whether the Republican sponsor of the proposal had asked the state Highway Patrol to find two Democrats in the middle of the filibuster and whether that should be noted in state records.

At issue is legislation to amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit government penalties against those who cite a “sincere religious belief” while declining to provide goods and services for same-sex marriage ceremonies or ensuing celebrations.

The measure cites photographers and florists as examples of those who could be covered. It would also shield clergy and worship places that decline to participate in such weddings.

The proposal, which could go before voters as a ballot measure this year, is among the latest efforts by Republican lawmakers in some states in reaction to the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage between same-sex couples in all states.

Republican sponsor Sen. Bob Onder said that since then, ordinances barring discrimination against gays and lesbians have been used as “weapons against people of religious faith.”

“My bill, on the other hand, is a shield not a sword,” Onder said after senators voted 23-9 Wednesday to give the measure initial approval.

Democratic opponents say the measure would allow discrimination against same-sex couples.

The filibuster stretched from Monday afternoon to early Wednesday, when majority Republicans recessed and then returned to use a rare procedural move to end it.

They then held a vote to give the proposal initial approval.

The measure appears likely to pass if it gets to the House, where Republicans hold more than enough seats needed to approve it and the House speaker backs the proposal.

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