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Missouri business coalition opposes 'religious shield' amendment

(courtesy Missouri Competes)
Some of the companies involved in Missouri Competes, a coalition of businesses that oppose SJR 39.

"Discrimination has no place in Missouri.”

That line greets visitors to the Missouri Competes website.

The coalition has come out against Senate Joint Resolution 39, a measure to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the state ballot that would allow clergy and some businesses to refuse services for same-sex weddings.

Hart Nelson, vice president of policy at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said such legislation is detrimental for the business community and the state.

"We see that it’s going to be bad for economic growth, bad for talent attraction at a time when people and talent is the most important thing to economic growth,” he said. “We believe that it hurts our state’s reputation as a state that is welcoming and open for business.”

Nelson said other states such as Indiana, Georgia and North Carolina have seen an economic backlash after passing similar legislation. He pointed to PayPal’s decision to scrap plans for a new operations center in Charlotte, N. C., that included 400 jobs. That’s after the legislature there passed a law preventing cities from putting non-discrimination policies in place based on gender identity.

“We really needed a place for the business community across the state to come together and say ‘Hey, we are opposed to this',” Nelson said of Missouri Competes.

The coalition includes major Missouri employers such as Monsanto, Express Scripts, MasterCard, Nestle Purina and Dow Chemical Company. 

missouri businesses opposing religious freedom amendment
Credit Missouri Competes
The logo for a coalition of Missouri businesses opposing SJR-39.

“Dow opposes SJR 39 and any effort that would allow for discrimination,” said Kevin Kolevar of Dow in a statement. “We should be focusing on policies that make Missouri more competitive and economically sound, instead of taking actions that divide.”

The companies that are part of Missouri Competes signed onto a statement that reads, in part:

“We strongly believe that Senate Joint Resolution 39 does not represent our values as Missourians, and the measure will damage our state’s reputation as a welcoming home and travel destination for job creators, their employees, families and customers.”

The resolution passed the state Senate and will be heard in the House Emerging Issues Committee on Tuesday evening. Nelson said the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s executive director Joe Reagan intends to testify against the resolution at the hearing.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.