During debates over a proposed bill protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in the Missouri House Of Representatives, one lawmaker stunned the chamber with a disturbing argument this afternoon.
“When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Quran, of other religions,” Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) declared, “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.” Brattin, who opposes the bill on religious-freedom grounds, refused to clarify or explain his statement, which left many on the House floor shocked. “The message this will send is we want to make it easier to discriminate in Missouri,” said Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-St. Louis), “and [Brattin’s] remarks are beyond appalling“.
The measure, SB-43, “would make it virtually impossible to win a discrimination case,” said Dogan. “You can fire somebody for just cause if you find out they’re gay,” said Rep. Kevin Engler. “I think that’s sick.” Missouri is one of many states that have either proposed, or passed, “religious freedom” laws, allowing people or businesses to refuse goods or services to LGBTQ individuals or couples based on “a sincerely held religious belief“.
Known as “Turn Away The Gays” laws, states like Mississippi, North Carolina, Indiana, and Tennessee have enacted such legislation, along with 18 other states which have similar bills pending. In the wake of the national rightward political shift, President Trump also signed a “religious freedom” executive order last Thursday, permitting abti-LGBTQ discrimination at the federal level.
Rep. Brandon Ellington argued against SB 43, warning that its passage would “roll back a half-century of civil rights progress and re-institute Jim Crow in Missouri.” The bill is scheduled for a vote before the full Legislature in the coming weeks. Governor Eric Greitens, a Republican, has not indicated whether he would sign the bill if it lands on his desk.