A constitutional amendment to strengthen religious freedom protections will likely go to voters after the Missouri Senate ended a 39-hour filibuster by the proposal’s foes.

The measure would specially protect churches and other organizations with objections to same-sex marriage. The Missouri Catholic Conference has called it “a good faith effort to protect the dignity of all persons and uphold religious liberty.”

Senate Democrats led a filibuster to block the proposed amendment until Senate Republicans used a procedural move to end the debate March 9. The proposal passed the Senate by a final vote of 23-9 on March 7.

If the Republican-controlled House of Representatives also approves the measure, it will appear on the Missouri ballot in an August primary election or in the November general election.

The amendment would bar penalties for religious organizations “on the basis that the organization believes or acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex.” It would also ensure that photographers and others who provide artistic products or services for weddings are not penalized due to sincerely held religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.

Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican, said the proposal was carefully worded so that it “protects churches, pastors, religious organizations in a very well-defined class of individuals from being penalized, targeted, and persecuted on the basis of their religious beliefs,” CNN reports.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, opposed the constitutional amendment. He praised the filibuster on Twitter, saying its participants were “standing on the right side of history and against discrimination.”

Efforts to strengthen religious freedom protections in states like Arizona and Indiana have prompted economic threats from LGBT activists and their allies in major businesses.

“Big Business and the cultural left have once again teamed up to try to block popular religious freedom protections,” Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said March 9 at the Daily Signal website.

“This proposal protects the rights of all Missourians to freely live out their beliefs about marriage without government punishment and coercion.”

The Missouri Catholic Conference testified in support of the bill before a Senate committee Feb. 24. It said the amendment is needed in response to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage nationwide. The conference said “it is only natural and completely reasonable that the people of Missouri would wish to reaffirm the right of churches to follow their beliefs in deciding whom they will marry.”

The conference noted that Catholic teaching rejects all unjust discrimination.

“It is not unjust discrimination, however, for a person to decline to participate directly in marriage ceremony that violates their sincere religious beliefs about the true nature of marriage,” it continued.

The conference said that the religious exemption was limited to businesses “intimately involved in wedding ceremonies” and does not provide a religious exemption for the vast majority of businesses.

Religious freedom protections have come under new attack from some wealthy sections of society.

The Arcus Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and several other major funders of LGBT activism are backing a multi-million dollar effort to target these protections. Beneficiaries of this funding include legal groups like the ACLU, Columbia Law School’s “Public Rights / Private Conscience Project,” advocacy groups like the Center for American Progress, and abortion giant Planned Parenthood.  

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