Politics

The Heroic Filibuster in Missouri That the Media Missed

March 9th 2016

By:
Aron Macarow

Something historic has been happening in Missouri, and you may not even know about it. In a heroic filibuster effort that ended at the 39th hour Wednesday, Republicans in that state passed a controversial measure to add more religious protections to people who are against gay marriage, NBC News reports.

Amid the noise of Super Tuesday 2, a group of seven Democratic senators were engaged in a marathon filibuster in the Missouri Senate. Republicans in the state were trying to pass a constitutional amendment that would offer protections to religious people and organizations that are against gay marriage in that state, according to Buzzfeed. Democratic senators thought that this amendment would "enshrine discrimination into the state constitution."

In the moments after the Republicans in the state Senate forced a vote, several Democrats began to respond:

What are these Democratic senators doing and why?

Senators Jamilah Nasheed, Jill Schupp, Scott Sifton, Jason Holsman, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Joseph Keaveny, and Kiki Curls were speaking non-stop since 4 p.m. local time on March 7 to obstruct Senate Joint Resolution No. 39, a "religious freedom" resolution filed by State Senator Bob Onder (R). The amendment to the Missouri constitution apparently sought to protect religious organizations, individuals, and clergy who oppose marriage equality from any penalty for discriminating against LGBTQ couples, so long as they have a religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Among the actions that the bill would protect is the ability to "decline [...] to provide goods or services [...] for such a marriage or ceremony," presumably as bakeries that have refused service to gay couples.

Trading off in three-hour shifts, the seven senators held off the Republican-backed bill for hours, which needed to be approved by a majority in both chambers of the state legislature before going to voters. While the senators don't have to continually speak directly to the anti-LGBTQ resolution to keep filibustering, they must remain standing and talking if they wish to keep the legislature from proceeding. From reading lists of 1,500 Missouri residents and businesses that oppose the legislation to discussing the merits of different protein bars, the senators show no signs of stopping yet.

The senators have gotten an outpouring of support.

From former Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who successfully filibustered an anti-choice bill in her state, to agricultural company Monsanto whose headquarters are in St. Louis, the seven senators have received words of encouragement from some surprising places, including both Democratic presidential candidates:

After the bill was passed, the company had this to say:

They have also received vocal support from Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who has been tweeting his approval of the filibuster in earnest while engaging with opponents directly from his official Twitter account:

But most important are the words of every day Missouri residents — and one teen from outside of the state — who expressed what the filibuster means to them on Twitter:

The record for longest filibuster is held by Missouri's state legislature, which once went for 30 hours in 1991. After 39 hours, these lawmakers smashed it.