Democratic politicians in Missouri attempted – but failed – to filibuster for a jaw-dropping 39 hours in an attempt to throw out legislation that will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTI people.
Politicians in the state senate began to debate bill SJR39 at 4pm on Monday. The bill is a state constitutional amendment that will allow religious organizations and businesses to decline services for same-sex weddings.
SJR39, which has been sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), has the backing of the senate’s 24 Republican members, but is opposed by Democratic politicians from the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.
Amongst those to argue against it was Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City), who talked for seven hours on Tuesday morning on why the legislation was unnecessary.
She, and seven fellow Democratic lawmakers, say that religious organizations are already protected from hosting same-sex weddings by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and that the wording of the proposed state amendment is so broad that it could be potentially misused by business owners who simply don’t wish to serve gay people.
Her stance has received support from a number of LGBT advocacy groups and civil liberties organizations.
Yesterday, Jeffrey Mittman, the executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement, ‘ACLU of Missouri is truly inspired by the senators who have stayed awake all night long and are still courageously standing against discrimination by filibustering the extremist SJR 39, which would amend our state’s Constitution to legalize discrimination against LGBT Missourians and their children.’
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also Tweeted their support for the filibuster attempt by Democratic Senate members.
Filibustering is the tactic utilised by politicians to continue talking and debating to prevent a vote being reached on disputed legislation. In 2013, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis made headlines for talking for 11 hours against an abortion restriction bill.
The longest known filibustering attempt in the US is believed to have been recorded in 1977, when Republican Texas state senator named Bill Meier took 43 hours to speak out against an open records law.
However, at around 5am this morning, Republicans took advantage of a parliamentary maneuver to shut down the debate, reports the St Louis-Post Despatch.
‘We felt the debate was starting to meander,’ said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin). ‘It was time to move on.’
To the anger of Democratic members, the senate then voted 23-9 in favour of SJR39. A final vote will take place tomorrow, before the bill passes to the House for consideration.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis), criticized the way in which Republican members had ended the filibuster, calling it ‘heavy handed’, and saying that it might encourage Democratic members to filibuster further legislation.
If SJR39 passes through the House, the amendment will be placed on the ballot for voter approval later in the year. If it receives public approval, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) would be unable to veto it.
Maria Chappelle-Nadal tweeted throughout much of her filibuster attempt. After the vote was taken, she posted a simple tweet as to the reasons why she felt so passionate on the issue: ‘My uncle was killed because he was gay. I stood up for him & all young LGBTQ’
She included a URL link to a Wikipedia page on Luis Torres Nadal, a poet, educator and actor who was killed in 1986 at the age of 42 in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico.