STL Post-Dispatch: Republicans end filibuster in Missouri Senate

Updated at 7:45 a.m.

JEFFERSON CITY • After more than 36 hours of non-stop debate, Republicans who control the Missouri Senate shut down a Democrat-led filibuster of a controversial same-sex marriage proposal early Wednesday.

Using a parliamentary maneuver, Republicans voted to end the blockade, which had put a national focus on a GOP-sponsored measure to shield clergy, wedding vendors and religious organizations from penalties if they oppose same-sex marriage.

The Senate then voted 23-9 to give the proposal preliminary approval.

The Senate’s minority party launched its stalling attempt at about 4 p.m. Monday and went non-stop until Republican leaders called for a break at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Word began spreading about the filibuster Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon, national outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed and the Los Angeles Times were covering the marathon.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tweeted their support. State Sen. Wendy Davis of Texas — who gained notoriety after her own filibuster in 2013 — also praised the Democrats’ efforts.

But the national attention — and yes, some backlash — hadn’t swayed Republicans as of 9 p.m.

Sen. Bob Onder, the sponsor, said it’s necessary so photographers, bakers and others aren’t “commandeered” into participating in same-sex marriages or receptions. The Lake Saint Louis Republican also wants to make sure churches don’t lose any tax benefits they have now if they oppose gay marriage.

Onder’s proposal would place the question on the ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment. If passed by voters, Democrats say it would enshrine discrimination against gays into the state constitution.

Throughout the Tuesday, regional differences among the body were apparent. All eight Senate Democrats represent urban areas in and around St. Louis and Kansas City. Most of the 24 Senate Republicans represent more rural areas.

The topics of talk while Democrats were holding the floor ranged from attire to food to nearly every other Senate bill that had passed committee so far. At about 7 p.m., Democratic Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls of Kansas City and Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City talked about relentless gun violence in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

Democrats generally support tighter regulations on firearms, while Republicans have generally opposed them.

“It goes back to the notion that we don’t share the same social reality,” Curls said.

“And that’s key,” Chappelle-Nadal said, “because people need to understand that we have different cultural experiences in our communities.”

The divide — and a perceived lack of understanding — cut both ways.

On Onder’s proposal, Sen. Ed Emery of Lamar said his views, shaped over a lifetime, are why he supports the measure on same-sex weddings.

“My conscience is directed by a certain standard of beliefs that have not changed since I accepted those as a young adult,” Emery said.

He said he just doesn’t want a baker to be forced to violate his or her conscience.

“I’m not asking the maker of wedding cakes to do anything but make wedding cakes for those patrons who want to purchase wedding cakes,” said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.

“And violate their conscience?” Emery asked.

“Well, you know what, violating conscience would be forcing them to marry someone of the same sex,” Schupp said. “That would be violating their conscience.”

While Schupp said she doesn’t think that priests should be compelled to perform same-sex marriages, she said business owners should be required to provide services to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

“So that’s the rub; that’s where you and I see things differently,” she told Emery.

As of 9 p.m., there was no breakthrough on the Senate floor.

“To say that we haven’t made progress would be false,” said Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton. “To say that we’re close to getting this to where it needs to be to come to a vote would also be false.”

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