Businesses from around Missouri on Tuesday announced the formation of a coalition designed to stop a “religious freedom” amendment to the state’s constitution currently making its way through the Missouri legislature.
Members of the coalition, called Missouri Competes, have agreed to sign a pledge stating that the proposed amendment “does not represent our values as Missourians, and the measure will damage our state’s reputation as a welcoming home and travel destination for job creators, their employees, families and customers.”
The legislation in question — known as Senate Joint Resolution 39, or SJR 39 — would ask voters to amend the Missouri Constitution to protect certain individuals and businesses who cite religious beliefs to refuse service to same-sex couples.
Proponents are pushing the measure in response to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. They contend the amendment is needed to prevent those with sincerely held religious beliefs from being punished by government.
The business community has led the charge against the amendment. Several companies involved in Missouri Competes — such as MasterCard and Monsanto — have already spoken out publicly against Missouri’s proposed amendment.
Others, including Google Fiber and Pfizer, are new to the campaign. They are joined by a variety of business, large and small, who believe the legislation would enshrine discrimination in the state constitution.
Kevin Kolevar, vice president of government affairs and public policy at Dow Chemical, said his company opposes this legislation “and any effort that would allow for discrimination. We should be focusing on policies that make Missouri more competitive and economically sound, instead of taking actions that divide.”
In addition to the Missouri Competes coalition, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce released a list of nearly 200 area businesses and organizations on Tuesday that publicly oppose SJR 39. That group includes small businesses like Brightergy and Tom’s Town Distillery and large corporations like Burns & McDonnell and Kansas City Southern.
Ryan Johnson, president of the conservative nonprofit Missouri Alliance for Freedom, said there has been “much hyperbole and misinformation from the left and their big business cronies.”
His organization, along with many supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 39, are calling on the Missouri House to move quickly to pass the bill and place it on the statewide ballot for voters to decide later this year.
“Missourians overwhelmingly believe citizens should not be forced by the government to violate their deeply held religious beliefs, which are protected by our constitution,” Johnson said.
The Senate passed the amendment last month after Democrats staged a 39-hour filibuster in hopes of killing it. It got its first hearing in the Missouri House on Tuesday night in the Emerging Issues Committee.