Missouri religious objections law stirs up businesses
Jefferson City, Mo. – — More than 60 businesses including some of Missouri’s biggest corporate names joined a coalition opposed to state legislation that would protect businesses objecting on religious grounds to same-sex marriages, the latest sign of a backlash against such proposals across the country.
Agricultural giant Monsanto, prescription drug benefits manager Express Scripts, and pet food maker Nestle Purina are among employers to join the recently formed Missouri Competes, according to gay rights PROMO, which released the list just hours before a House committee was to hear testimony.
The formation of the coalition comes amid business pushback to legislation in other states protecting those opposed to gay marriage.
Several states and cities have banned travel to Mississippi in response to a law signed by the Republican governor last week to let workers cite religious beliefs to deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the Missouri measure, has pointed to Indiana as another example of the business backlash. A public-private tourism group has estimated that Indiana lost $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenues and other economic benefits after Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence last year signed religious-objections legislation.
Leaders of utility company Ameren and BJC HealthCare are among those who signed a letter earlier this month in opposition to business provisions in the Missouri measure.
Supporters argue the Missouri law is intentionally narrower than laws passed in other states and is necessary to protect some businesses from being forced to violate religious beliefs.
The proposal would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to ban government penalties against businesses that cite religion while declining goods or services of “expressional or artistic creation” for same-sex weddings.
The measure comes after bakers and florists have faced legal challenges in other states for declining to provide services for same-sex weddings. It also would shield clergy, places of worship and other religious organizations from being penalized for not participating in marriages involving same-sex partners.
Hart Nelson, the vice president of public policy at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said Tuesday that the legislation could make it difficult for businesses to recruit candidates for jobs.
N.C. governor seeks rights law changes
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday he wants to change a new state law that prevents people from suing over discrimination in state court, but he’s not challenging a measure regarding bathroom access for transgender people.
His announcement comes as fallout widens over the law he signed last month that would limit protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people. Critics of the law called his statement a step in the right direction, but not enough.