JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL draftee, slammed a Missouri measure that would shield some businesses that deny services for same-sex weddings, telling fellow opponents Wednesday that it is “the opposite of respect and it is the opposite of equality.”
Sam, who came out as gay before the 2014 NFL draft after starring at the University of Missouri, said the measure would make it easier than ever for people to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
“It does not reflect the Missouri I know,” Sam told a crowd of about 80 demonstrators in the Capitol Rotunda, including some of who held signs decrying the proposal as “backward, bigoted and bad for Missouri.”
The St. Louis Rams picked Sam in the seventh round before cutting him in training camp.
After Sam spoke, some of the protesters split off to try to persuade members of a House panel to vote against the legislation. Emerging Issues Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Haahr, a Springfield Republican, announced late Wednesday that he was delaying a vote on the measure until next week to give members more time to deliberate. A vote had been expected Wednesday evening.
Haahr said committee members have faced pressure from people on both sides of the issue since the Senate passed the measure in March after a failed 37-hour filibuster by Democrats.
If passed by the GOP-led Legislature, it would bypass Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and head straight to voters. They would decide whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to ban government penalties against individuals and businesses that cite their religion while declining goods or services of “expressional or artistic creation” for same-sex weddings.