Eric Greitens now stands alone on SJR 39, at least among GOP candidates for governor.
Greitens on Tuesday became the first Republican gubernatorial contender to come out against the controversial constitutional amendment that would legally shield people from selling services to same-sex couples.
The state Senate has approved the proposal, and the Republican-led House is now considering it.
“I don't believe this legislation is the right approach,” Greitens said in a statement. “I oppose SJR 39 because I believe that while it is well-intentioned, it could unintentionally threaten our economy and job creation.
“Here in Missouri, we are already 47th in job growth and 42nd in wage growth. We simply cannot afford more policies from Jeff City that have the potential to kill jobs.”
His three rivals for the GOP nomination — Peter Kinder, Catherine Hanaway and John Brunner — have all come out in support.
Greitens’ statement was his second of the day on the issue and came about six hours after an initial comment, which frustrated opponents and advocates.
That comment appeared to show Greitens straddling the issue.
“As a Navy SEAL, I was proud to serve in a U.S. military which protected religious liberty and ensured non-discrimination,” he said.
SJR 39 is backed by conservatives because they say it safeguards those who oppose gay marriage.
Many Democrats oppose it precisely because they view the measure as a legal permit to discriminate against same-sex couples.
“Eric’s silence on the issue of religious freedom is deafening,” Ryan Johnson, president of Missouri Alliance for Freedom, a enthusiastic supporter of the measure, told the Missouri Times. “If he wants to lead, let him do so now by taking a firm position on SJR 39.”
Opponents of the proposal say its passage could cost Missouri jobs as businesses and other organizations already are hinting of boycotts.
In his latest statement, Greitens insisted the choice doesn’t have to be between protecting religious liberty or protecting jobs.
“We can and we must do both, but it will take real leadership,” Greitens said. “As governor, I will protect the religious liberties of all Missourians, and ensure that pastors, rabbis, priests, and all members of the clergy are never forced to perform any ceremony that goes against their religious beliefs.
"At the same time, I will work every day to make Missouri the top state in the nation to create and protect good-paying jobs.”
Proponents of the measure say the state Constitution already protects members of the clergy from perming ceremonies that oppose their religious beliefs.
Chris Koster, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, also opposes SJR 39.