Apparently, the recent gubernatorial veto of a discriminatory bill passed by Arizona legislators has spawned a similar bill in the Missouri Senate.

Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau recently filed SB 916, which is intended to shield businesses refusing service to homosexuals for religious reasons. Wallingford stated in a recent interview that he is not in favor of workplace discrimination but sees two sides to the issue.

He notes that he voted in favor of a bill prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity in cases of housing, employment and public accommodations. That bill passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House.

Wallingford cited examples of a photographer or baker who is asked to perform services for a wedding between two gay men or women. His argument was that such business owners could face legal action should they decline to provide services.

It should be noted that there is no prohibition currently in place prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Missouri state law, although some municipalities have passed non-discrimination ordinances.

The wording of SB 916 in its present form would not strip any protections from discrimination under state laws. It reads, “Nothing in this section shall be construed … to establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution based on federal, state, or local civil rights law involving discrimination as defined in section 213.010.”

The scenario that played out in Arizona will undoubtedly take center stage in many state houses across the country this legislative session as lawmakers grapple with wording in similar bills addressing these discriminatory proposals.

If you have been subjected to discriminatory practices while on the job, you may be entitled to seek compensatory and punitive damages. Arrange a consult with a Missouri attorney who practices employment law, so he or she can review your case and advise you of your legal options.

Source: News-Leader, “State senator files bill to protect businesses that discriminate on religious grounds” Jonathan Shorman, Feb. 26, 2014