As the Missouri General Assembly continues consideration of a constitutional amendment enshrining anti-gay discrimination, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has condemned the Republican-led effort, saying it “hijacked” plans to pass a series of ethics reforms.
“We started out with a cavalcade of speeches and press releases and bills… all this `No. 1 priority, No. 1 priority, gotta get this stuff done,’” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Nobody talked about ethics reform this week.”
Democrats in the Senate filibustered the amendment, SJR 39, for nearly 40 hours last week before the Republican leadership advanced it to the House. Broadly written, it ensures that anyone who opposes same-sex marriage can refuse service to a same-sex couple.
Nixon believes that spending nearly all of last week on the divisive issue has distracted from the other goals he hoped the legislature would address before it adjourns on May 13. “It just shortens that field again and takes away the focus of what they said are their priorities this year. I just want to reorient folks here as to what we need to get accomplished.”
The amendment puts “the nation’s eyes on us… about whether we want to put discrimination in our Constitution after the Supreme Court has already ruled on the majority of these issues.”
As governor, Nixon has no say over the fate over the proposed amendment. If passage follows in the House, the measure heads directly to voters for consideration. He will have control, however, over whether it’s on the August ballot or November ballot.
Numerous businesses have similarly opposed the measure, including Monsanto and Dow Chemical. During the filibuster, Democratic Senators read from a growing list of many local businesses and organizers who similarly oppose the amendment.
The NCAA, which is set to start holding its March Madness basketball tournament in St. Louis later this week, has not yet taken a position. “We’re looking into this,” a spokesperson said on Monday. Pressure from the NCAA helped elevate the national debate on Indiana’s pro-discrimination religious liberty last year.
The House has not yet scheduled debate on SJR 39.