A bill giving Missouri business owners the right to refuse service to individuals on religious grounds drew a rebuke Friday from Gov. Jay Nixon.
Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau said he introduced the legislation to ensure that the government is not able to force individuals to violate their religious beliefs.
But opponents have condemned it as a way for businesses to discriminate against anyone they do not like, most notably gays and lesbians.
“Gov. Nixon believes we should be working to end discrimination, not passing unnecessary bills that would condone it,” Scott Holste, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement to The Star.
State law currently bars discrimination based upon race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability in employment, housing and public accommodations.
During his State of the State address in January, the Democratic governor called on lawmakers to add sexual orientation to the list.
Wallingford was one of nine Republicans who joined with Democrats last year in the final moments of the legislative session to pass a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The bill died in the House.
Wallingford said he still supports banning discrimination in the workplace, but he also wants stronger protection for religious convictions.
“There’s nothing in my bill that talks about gays or lesbians or discrimination,” he said Thursdayin an interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX.