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Mo. business leaders head to Jefferson City to oppose ‘religious freedom’ amendment

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- More than 80 business leaders traveled to Jefferson City on Tuesday to fight a proposed religious freedom amendment to the Missouri state constitution.

Opponents of the legislation say the amendment would make the state less likely to be a destination to travelers or job creators, among other consequences.

The proposed amendment would protect individuals and businesses with sincere religious beliefs from being punished by government for refusing service to same-sex couples.

Businesses are leading the opposition to this proposal, saying it would legalize discrimination in the state constitution.

The convention and tourism group Visit KC said visitor spent more than $3 billion in the region in 2014. That money supports more than 46,000 jobs in the hospitality industry. Those jobs could be cut significantly if travelers decide to go elsewhere.

"Once again, in hospitality we open our doors to everybody," Hilton President General Manager Philip Strnad said. "To then turn around and say 'well people have the opportunity to tell some people no and other people yes,' it just doesn't make sense to us. So it could have a huge ramification for the hotel business  here in town."

The Missouri Alliance for Freedom said chambers of commerce are sacrificing small business people on the altar of political correctness. Supporters said the amendment simply protects the free speech rights of wedding vendors and pastors for their views on marriage.

Unlike other states that have already enacted so-called religious freedom laws, Missouri's proposal is a constitutional amendment, which would require a vote of the people. If enacted, it would make it more difficult to change or repeal.