After 39-hour filibuster, Mo. Senate approves religious liberties bill

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A 39-hour filibuster by seven Democrats in the Missouri Senate against a religious freedom bill that critics called anti-gay was finally cut short on Wednesday morning.

A Republican majority voted to end the filibuster and then gave the bill preliminary approval by a 23-9 vote. The contested legislation would allow religious organizations and certain others to refrain from activities they view as condoning or participating in same-sex marriage.

State legislatures around the country have been pushing such religious liberties bills in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Social conservatives say such laws are necessary to protect faith-based organizations and businesses from being forced to condone a practice they see as in conflict with their religion.

These bills have faced opposition by gay rights supporters and others, arguing that it could harm commerce by painting the state as bigoted.

When the Senate gives final approval, expected Thursday, the bill would be presented to Missouri voters on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. If passed by the voters, Democrats warn it would enshrine discrimination into the state constitution.

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