Missouri Senate Democrats continue filibuster past 28 hours

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JEFFERSON CITY - A filibuster by Senate Democrats ended after more than 39 hours Wednesday morning. It battled a proposed amendment granting greater religious protections for organizations that object same-sex marriage. 

If approved by voters once passed by the House and signed by the governor, the resolution would prohibit the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same sex marriage ceremony or allow a same sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization's property.

The Associated Press reported the resolution passed the Senate by a 23-9 vote. It is schelued for a final Senate vote Thursday on some of the changes to the resolution.

Senator Bill Onder, R-Lake St. Louis proposed the resolution Feb. 17, which will now enter the perfection stage. If it works its way through the House, it will end up on the November ballot.

The ACLU issued a statement in response to the result of the filibuster and subsequent vote: 

"It’s an outrage that extremist senators would use a rare procedural move to shut down debate and silence the voices of countless Missourians, including major corporations and the very people these officials represent, who have spoken out against the anti-LGBT SJR 39. This bill would enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by allowing taxpayer-funded organizations like adoption and foster care agencies and homeless shelters to refuse serving LGBT families, in addition to countless other harmful consequences. This amendment raises serious constitutional concerns because it singles out same-sex couples for discrimination, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell recognizing that same-sex couples enjoy the same constitutional right to marry as everyone else. In addition, the state cannot constitutionally prefer one set of religious beliefs over all other beliefs. Discrimination has no place in our state and we are resolved to continue to fight this bill in the House. We salute the senators who courageously filibustered this hateful bill for a record-breaking 39 hours, and were willing to keep standing, even as the numbers were against them. The country is watching and we will continue to fight until we've landed on the right side of history."

Senator Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit also released a statement Wednesday morning in response supporting the Sanate's decision:

“The Senates’ vote on SJR39 is a proactive step in protecting Missourians’ First Amendment religious freedoms. I believe we will see numerous lawsuits against churches and religious organizations a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. It is important to protect these organizations from a precedent that would require them to violate their religious beliefs.”

The filibuster started around 4:20 p.m. Monday in an effort to stall the vote on the proposal. Up until around 7 p.m. Tuesday, the senators didn't touch on any bills. Topics that were brought up instead consisted of what they had for lunch or how their day was going. 

Many senators would leave for periods of time to go eat or work in their offices. They would return for roll calls, which Democrats would periodically call for. 

The senators acknowledged how long the filibuster was going on about every hour or so, and then continued to joke around with each other. There were moments in mid-small talk where the senators would mention a bill they wanted to comment on. Capitol correspondent Phill Brooks, said it could be one of the longest continuous filibusters to date.

Instead of commenting, the senators would read the proposed resolution line-by-line and then move on to another bill. Some reporters had been on the story the entire time. They joked about the filibuster running long.

It wasn't until Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-University City and Senator Shalonn "KiKi" Curls D-Kansas City got to the podium that the resolution in question was discussed.

“People are struggling and they’ve been struggling,” said Chappelle-Nadal

Chappelle-Nadal also said, “We want to be accepting of people who represent in our communities.”

The proposal would ban penalties against business that deny services on religious grounds. It would also shield clergy and places of worship that decline to participate in same-sex marriages.

Curls said it’s scary the resolution is being considered.

“I’m standing up for every gay friend,” Chappelle-Nadal said, “I want young people to not have fear or feel disenfranchised.”

[Editor's note: The word "bill" has been replaced with "resolution" where appropriate. This story has been updated through the end of the filibuster. The story has also been updated clarity.]