Contested Missouri religious objections measure voted down

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JEFFERSON CITY — A contested Missouri measure to protect businesses that deny services for same-sex weddings, also known as SJR39, has been voted down. 

The measure failed to advance Wednesday on a 6-6 vote in the Missouri House Emerging Issues committee. It had previously passed the Senate.

Rep. Mike Colona, D- St. Louis gave an emotional and personal plea for the committee to vote against SJR39. 

"In a nutshell, I think what you saw is a reflection of what Missouri is really about," Colona said. "We have businesses from all over the country trying to tell us what to do, and what I've attempted to do and I think it's something just tolerance and building relationships is just to go to every member on the committee and talk to them about voting your conscience on this." 

Colona said this isn't an issue about religious freedom but one of equality. 

"I have faith in the point that in today's day and age, every single one of us has a best friend or son or daughter or extended family member who has recently come out of the closet," Colona said. "That experience of meeting folks, breaking down the stereotypes... that experience resulted what you saw today." 

Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville voted in favor of SJR39. He said he wasn't for the bill, but he wasn't against it. 

"I wasn't necessarily for the bill. I was for voting it out," Lant said. "I thought that the people ought to have the opportunity to make the decision whether it is a religious freedom bill or a discriminatory bill." 

Lant said there's a lot of rhetoric on both sides of this issue. 

"I felt like that we needed to put it on the floor of the House and with complete debate," Lant said. "After that, I really felt like people in the state of Missouri need to make the ultimate decision." 

Lant said he doesn't think it's proper for 12 people to make a decision for the six million people in the state of Missouri and he thinks it needs to go to them for their vote. He also said the bill is dead for this session, but he doesn't know if it will be refiled for the next session. 

The legislation drew opposition from LGBT-rights activists and some business leaders, who cited economic backlash in other states with laws perceived as discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

If the measure had passed, it would have gone to voters to decide whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to bar government penalties against businesses that cite religion while denying some services for same-sex weddings.