Missouri Senate votes controversial religious liberties bill through to House

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate voted Thursday night to pass a controversial religious objection measure that caused a historic 3-day filibuster on to the House.

The measure would amend the Missouri Constitution to protect those who deny services to a same-sex couple because of religious objections to gay marriage. 

Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, said Thursday this is the kind of change that will make the future generation look at us like we looked at people in the 1950's with signs that said 'no whites' on their windows.

Senate Democrats fiercely opposed the measure because they said it would write discrimination of the LGBTQ community into the Missouri Constitution. 

Republicans argued back that people deserve to have this religious freedom as it is guaranteed to them in the U.S. Constitution.

The Republican-led Senate gave initial approval to the measure Wednesday, using a majority vote to end the nearly 40-hour long filibuster. 

Senate Democrats voiced their discontent Thursday over the majority party forcibly stopping their filibuster. 

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said the Republicans were stifling the her voice and the voice of her constituents by voting to end the filibuster. 

"Only 15 times in the last 4 years have they even cut off debate by using this procedure, the previous question," Chappelle-Nadal said. "It's very rare that that ever even happens." 

The Senate had a dysfunctional start to Thursday, taking 7 hours to accomplish what normally takes them 10 minutes.

Chappelle-Nadal said that the minority party had tried to negotiate with the Republican-led Senate, but they would not hear it, and that led to a lot of hostility. 

"I think that because the Republicans refused to negotiate with the Democratic minority that we're at a point where they think that might makes right, and that simply should not be the case in the house of democracy," Chapelle-Nadal said. 

Republican senators also recognized the tension in the chamber Thursday. 

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said both parties played a part in the gridlock.

"I think nobody is perfect up here, and neither party has made necessarily the right decision at the right time," Sater said. "There can be improvements on both sides, on how to work together, on how to come to some consensus on certain things."  

Chappelle-Nadal said the only reason Republicans are pushing the issue as hard as they are is because it is an election year and it will get them more votes. 

"We are in a period of time where candidates who are filled with hatred are getting the biggest success," she said. "I hope the brighter minds of the Republican Party realize that they will be losing a lot of the independents in the election because of the crazy rhetoric and actions like this."  

Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said he does not know when the bill will be taken up in the House, but he hopes it is some time soon.