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Missouri Senate passes religious freedom legislation

[JURIST] The Missouri State Senate [official website] passed on Thursday a proposal [SJR 39 materials] to amend the state constitution to provide broader religious protections for individuals and businesses opposed to gay marriage. In a 23-7 vote, lawmakers passed the measure in the wake of a failed 37-hour filibuster by Democrats. The bill [text, PDF] seeks to protect religious organizations from being penalized for refusing to perform same-sex marriages when acting in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief concerning same-sex marriage. The bill would also ban the state from serving a penalty on individuals and business owners for declining to provide "goods or services of expressional or artistic creation" for a same-sex ceremony or reception for the same reasons. If this measure passes the legislature, it would be on the ballot for voter approval in either August or November, and would not need the governor's approval [WP report].

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as freedom of religious practice, remain controversial issues in the US. At least nineteen states have enacted some variety of religious freedom laws, most modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text] signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. Following the US Supreme Court [official website] ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges [JURIST report] in June, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis refused to issue [JURIST report] marriage licenses, arguing that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. In June North Carolina lawmakers passed SB 2, a law that permits magistrates to refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds, overriding a veto [JURIST reports] by Governor Pat McCrory. Earleir this year, an Indiana legislative committee approved a bill [JURIST report] that would repeal the controversial religious freedom law passed last year. Last month the Georgia Senate passed [JURIST report] a bill similar to the Missouri Senate bill, which would give religious leaders the right to refuse to marry any couple if it is against their religion without facing penalties and bars the government from taking any adverse action against any person who acts in accordance with their religious views towards marriage.

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