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Nixon Signs Breastfeeding Protections Bill Into Law; Ellinger Attends Ceremony

Governor Jay Nixon has signed legislation that would allow breastfeeding moms to be exempted from jury duty in Missouri.

House Bill 1320 would also mandate that breastfeeding in public does not constitute indecent exposure or conduct.  It was sponsored by State Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, and the bill was fast-tracked as Ellinger continues to battle liver cancer.  Nixon, also a Democrat, paid tribute to Ellinger just before he signed the bill into law.

"Back in the 1960's, he stood with Dr. (Martin Luther) King in the march for civil rights," Nixon said.  "For decades he's served in a variety of roles in the St. Louis area, (and) his legacy will improve the health of thousands of children and their mothers through this legislation."

Lawmakers from both parties were on hand for Thursday's bill signing, including House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country.

"While we probably haven't always voted the same on bills and matters coming before the General Assembly, I can tell you from my side of the aisle you've always been a gentleman of great candor and class, and have been a formidable spokesman for the issues that we know you believe in, and believe in deeply," Diehl told Ellinger.

The bill signing ceremony was held in University City, where Ellinger lives.  He attended the ceremony at City Hall but was confined to a wheelchair and did not speak, though he did stand and wave to the audience in attendance and personally greeted numerous people.  His wife, Linda Locke, spoke on his behalf.

"This bill demonstrates the intersection where our state motto, 'The Welfare of the People Shall Be the Supreme Law,' meets our state judicial system," Locke said.  "Clearly the consensus of the General Assembly is that the relationship of a mother to her child is a sacred bond, and it should be respected by all institutions."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.