Hotly-debated religious freedom bill could cost Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A hotly-debated religious freedom bill could cost Kansas City.

Today Kansas City, Mo. City Hall said the NCAA and the Big 12, among other groups, are keeping an eye on a controversial measure that if approved would let bakers, florists, and other businesses refuse to work same-sex weddings for religious reasons.

Opponents worry it would let stores effectively hang "no gays allowed" signs in their windows.

Groups hoping to hold conferences or conventions in Kansas City are looking at the state in a different light and starting to ask questions. Some would consider pulling out if this legislation goes through.

“There are folks associated with the NCAA, they have not made a formal inquiry yet, but they have started asking questions of some of our partner agencies, basically asking what is going on with this legislation, is it going to pass, what does that mean,” City Spokesman Chris Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the city is concerned that the proposed "religious freedom" amendment to Missouri’s constitution will become a law.

“As this piece of legislation has been making its way through the statehouse, we've been getting a lot of questions, a lot of phone calls, and concerns expressed by several different organizations because they all have upcoming conferences and conventions and sports tournaments in Kansas City over the next year or two,” Hernandez explained. “They do not want to hold their events in a city that is seen as not being welcoming, or being seen as discriminatory.”

On Thursday, Republicans in the Missouri Senate voted to amend the state's constitution to allow certain businesses and organizations to refuse services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.

“I think it's absolutely ridiculous that in this day and age, with this election cycle that's going on, that our country seems to be going backwards,” said Kirk Nelson, the Vice President of LIKEME Lighthouse --which serves the LGBT community.

Nelson said the legislation is discriminatory, and doesn't reflect on Kansas City positively.

“Seems like nowadays we're kind of starting to get back on top, and back on the map for things, and I think it could really devastate the city's economy,” Nelson added.

The bill was sent to the house, and if approved, it would bypass Governor Jay Nixon’s veto, and would appear on the ballot statewide for voters later this year.

“We want people to know that Kansas City is a city that is welcoming and inclusive, and that's a matter of policy, it's also a matter of feeling of the top leadership here at the city,” Hernandez said.

“I’m glad that they're standing up for other people's rights, because we're all human beings, and no one human is less important than another one,” Nelson said.

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