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Epic Missouri Filibuster Ends in 'Major Scarring of Equality'

Anti-gay resolution gets preliminary approval after Republicans force vote

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and other Missouri Democrats staged a record-breaking 39-hour filibuster against the bill. (Photo: AP)

A historic 39-hour filibuster by Democratic lawmakers against anti-gay legislation in the Missouri State Senate ended on Wednesday after Republicans forced a preliminary vote on the bill, which passed 23-9.

A final vote is expected Thursday before Senate Joint Resolution 39 moves to the House for further action.

"This is a major scarring of equality in Missouri," said Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a leader of the filibuster, following the vote. "We are living in an environment where hatred is alive, and we as a caucus are not going to tolerate it."

The resolution, introduced by Republican Sen. Bob Onder, prohibits the state from "penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex."

ACLU-MO executive director Jeffrey Mittman said the bill would in fact "enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by allowing taxpayer-funded organizations like adoption and foster care agencies and homeless shelters to refuse serving LGBT families, in addition to countless other harmful consequences."

Democrats launched their filibuster at around 4:00pm Monday and continued until Republicans called for a break around 5:00am Wednesday, gaining increasing national coverage and support from presidential candidates along the way as they discussed a range of meandering topics, including "other bills, Donald Trump, slick roads, soft drink ads in foreign countries, and 'Jesus sightings' in foreign objects," Missouri public radio reported.

According to the New York Times, there was also talk of "Tyler Perry movies, Jews who eat pork, even which shoes they should have worn."

Republicans ended the filibuster through a procedural move known as the "previous question," a little-used measure that motions to end debate on pending legislation and force an immediate vote. However, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, that decision could end up being more trouble than it was worth:

Last year, Republican senators used the previous question to shut down an eight hour filibuster by the Democrats and force a vote on "right to work" in the last week of session. In turn, Democrats shut down debate on everything else.

Wednesday's previous question is only the 16th time the Senate has shut down debate since 1970 and it was used with eight weeks left in session. If the Democrats use the same tactic as last year in response, it could spell trouble for everything from voter id to anti-abortion measures to the 2017 budget.

Mittman said Wednesday that it was an "outrage that extremist senators would use a rare procedural move to shut down debate and silence the voices of countless Missourians, including major corporations and the very people these officials represent, who have spoken out against the anti-LGBT SJR 39."

Mittman also praised the lawmakers who took part in the filibuster "and were willing to keep standing, even as the numbers were against them. "

"Discrimination has no place in our state and we are resolved to continue to fight this bill in the House," he said. "The country is watching and we will continue to fight until we've landed on the right side of history."

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