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Missouri GOP candidates for Governor address LGBT issues in debate

Missouri GOP candidates for Governor address LGBT issues in debate
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s four Republican candidates for governor are weighing in on national and state policies that would affect LGBT people amid nationwide discussions that gained traction after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all states. Suburban St. Louis businessman John Brunner, former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens, former U.S. attorney and House speaker Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder face a contentious four-way GOP primary Aug. 2. While policies related to LGBT people haven’t been central to their campaigns, the issues likely will come up again after the next governor assumes office. Missouri drew national attention this year after some lawmakers proposed amending the state’s constitution to ban government penalties against businesses that cite religion while denying some goods and services for same-sex couples looking to wed. That led Senate Democrats to stage the longest consecutive filibuster in recent state history. Brunner, Hanaway and Kinder backed the proposal. Legislative leaders have said the proposed constitutional amendment’s later death in a House committee only means it will come up again in the 2017 session, when Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s successor will be in office. Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. The winner of the GOP primary faces the Democratic nominee, likely Attorney General Chris Koster, in the Nov. 8 general election. Since the constitutional amendment’s failure in the Missouri Statehouse, Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration has issued a directive to public schools with guidance to allow transgender students to use whatever bathroom matches their gender identities, not sex at birth. That spurred similar criticism from each of the GOP candidates. They say that should be up to local schools to decide. Here’s a guide to what each of the Republican candidates have to say about the failed religious objections proposal and transgender bathroom access:


Brunner attended a rally in the Capitol for the proposed constitutional amendment. He questioned the need for businesses to provide services for same-sex couples getting married if it’s against their beliefs and said it’s similar to expecting a Jewish baker to decorate a cake with a swastika.

“We have for a long time found a way to accommodate each other’s differences and still seem to get along, and it’s a personal value of mutual respect,” Brunner said. “I may disagree with that person’s values, but I don’t expect them to comply with my values.”

He said he opposes the federal directive on transgender bathroom access and wouldn’t want “some guy going in and using the bathrooms or the locker room of my granddaughters.”


During what was a contentious debate on the religious-objections proposal for businesses, Greitens said “people of faith are under attack in America,” but that the measure could hurt the state’s economy. He is the only Republican candidate for governor who doesn’t back such a proposal.

Greitens said the directive on transgender bathroom use is an example of “obscene federal overreach.” He said bathroom access should be handled by schools and families.

“Schools should be compassionate and thoughtful. They should think about the needs of all their kids, including kids’ safety,” Greitens said “What I’m absolutely opposed to, and I think it’s terrible, is the idea that the Obama administration would allow grown men to go into little girls’ bathrooms.”


She supported the proposed constitutional amendment to allow businesses citing religious beliefs to deny wedding-related goods and services to same-sex couples. Hanaway cited exceptions for physicians whose religion influences their opposition to abortions and who are not required to perform those procedures.

“I do think it’s absolutely wrong to discriminate against anyone because of their faith, their beliefs, (or) their lifestyle,” Hanaway said. “But where’s the balance? Are people who are of a devout faith not entitled to express their opinion?”

She also slammed the federal directive on transgender bathroom access, saying that should be left to local schools.

“The federal government should not be telling our local schools that grown men can go into elementary school girls’ bathrooms,” Hanaway said.


Kinder was a vocal proponent of the religious-objections proposal and testified in favor before the Legislature. More than 100 Missouri Republican lawmakers signed his letter to Obama in opposition to the federal directive dealing with transgender students’ bathroom access.

He said what he described as an “illegal and unconstitutional decree” was not the appropriate way to address those policies.

“That’s not a sound rule,” Kinder said. “I want to keep women, and especially young girls, adolescent girls protected from grown men or adolescent young men in their restrooms.”

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