Post submitted by Lindsey Clark, HRC Regional Field Organizer
Opponents of Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39 – a terrible resolution that would enshrine discrimination against LGBT people into the Missouri Constitution – are keeping their promise that they won’t rest until this resolution is defeated. A little over a month ago, Democrats in the Missouri Senate held a historic 39-hour filibuster to oppose the bill, earning them much attention and little sleep for folks on both sides of the issue. Tuesday night, I was in Jefferson City at the Capitol as Missouri legislators again worked through the night debating SJR 39, this time holding the first House committee meeting in a hearing room packed to the brim with testifiers, witnesses and press. One legislative staffer told reporters that it was the biggest House hearing crowd he’d seen in twenty years at the Capitol, even though people had to wait nearly four hours for the hearing to begin.
Opponents of the resolution wore red and teal ribbons to show their opposition and showed up in droves to support the score of testifiers who took to the stand to make a case against the harmful legislation. Many more were left waiting in the wings when the chairman of the committee called an end to the hearing at just over four hours after it started. What happened in between was nothing short of a spectacle.
The bill’s sponsor Senator Bob Onder started the evening with a presentation and Q-and-A. When asked about businesses pulling out of states like Georgia and North Carolina that have passed similarly harmful legislation, the senator struck an angry tone about his own state “being bullied by corporate elites” and went so far as to suggest boycotts against the corporations standing up for LGBT people in those states. Senator Onder also went on to compare LGBT equality to the Holocaust, shocking many in the room. Representative Jacob Hummel, the first to speak after the senator’s assertion, called the comparison “disgusting.”
Jeremy Cady of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom refused to answer who funds the organization and admitted the organization only has two employees. University of Missouri Law Professor Carl Esbeck’s received plenty of criticism after his disrespectful treatment of fellow lawyer and openly gay Representative Mike Colona.
The hearing’s major conversation was about the economic impact of SJR 39 and Missouri businesses and corporate executives showed up in opposition. Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Warren Erdman from the Kansis City Chamber of Commerce, Ronnie Burt from Visit Kansas City, Dwayne Simpson, director of government affairs for Monsanto, Kathy Nelson from the Kansas City Sports Commission, and Mark Schreiber from the St Louis Sports Commission all spoke out about the negative impact SJR 39 would have on businesses across the state.
In addition to avid support from the business community, many other LGBT people and allies spoke out in appreciation and against the bill. Republican Representative Anne Zerr, Shawn D’Abreau from the Center for Civil & Religious Liberty, Tom Irwin, executive director of Civic Progress St Louis, Sarah Rossi of the ACLU of Missouri, Representative Mika Colona, and PROMO’s Executive Director Steph Perkins all shared powerful and emotional moments about how this bill would harm their community.
In the coming week, SJR 39 will have a second hearing in the Emerging Issues committee. At that point, amendments can be added and the committee is expected to hold a vote.
If you’ve not yet done so, please contact your representatives and voice your opposition for the resolution. We need to do everything in our power to stop this before it starts and harms thousands of LGBT Missourians along the way.
HRC is on the ground, working with our coalition partners to stop this dangerous resolution. To get involved, please email Lindsey.firstname.lastname@example.org.