News (USA)

Business leaders oppose Missouri religious objections bill

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Top executives from some of the St. Louis area’s largest companies said Friday that Missouri’s proposed religious freedom law could have a devastating impact on the state’s economy.

Leaders from Monsanto, MasterCard and dozens of other firms joined Gov. Jay Nixon to express opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment, which would create legal protections for religious business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings.

The bill survived a 37-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats, moving it to the Republican-controlled House. If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would bypass the Democratic governor and go to voters.

About 100 leaders of St. Louis-area firms, from tech startups to companies that employ thousands of people, gathered at the headquarters of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, which also opposes the measure, as does the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. They say the bill would allow discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals in addition to damaging the economy.

“MasterCard condemns any legislation that has the potential to allow for discrimination in any form,” said Rob Reeg, president of MasterCard Technologies, which employs nearly 3,000 people in the St. Louis region. “We welcome, foster and embrace diversity and believe that it’s key to MasterCard’s success.”

The proposed ballot measure would amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit government penalties for photographers, florists and other professionals who cite religious beliefs while declining to provide wedding-related services of “expressional or artistic creation” to same-sex couples.

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