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Implications of MO 'religious freedom' amendment

Posted: 9:45 PM, Mar 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-14 22:45:46-04

As Kansas City leaders work to draw conventions and sporting tournaments, one bill could derail all of that.

Missouri's 'religious freedom' amendment could carry heavy implications.

Next year, Kansas City is one of the four cities to host Regionals, but if this bill passes, the tournament isn't the only thing at risk of leaving the state.

Just days after the tournament, the Big 12 Conference is questioning its ties with Missouri.

Big 12 Conference Commission Bob Bowlsby said in a statement:

"The Big 12 Conference and its member institutions support the rights of all individuals regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.  It is acknowledged that elected officials enact laws they believe reflect the desires of their constituents. However, as a Conference, we will consider the impact of the Missouri Legislature's action on current and future Big 12 events within the state."

Supporters of the bill say businesses should not have to serve someone that is offensive to their beliefs.

Opponents, including Mayor Sly James, call the proposed law flat out discrimination.

"I don't have any problem with religious freedom, but if you are going to be in the public domain, providing public accommodations or services to the general public, you don't get to say 'I'm not going to provide it to this person because I don't like who they are,'" said Mayor James.

The state of Indiana passed a similar bill last year.

The NCAA questioned ties with Indianapolis just days before the Final Four there.

City leaders say the bill cost Indianapolis more than $60 million in future convention business.

Democratic representatives such as Rep. Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City) hope Missouri doesn't make the same mistake Indiana did.

"In this day and age, companies and corporations and conferences and things like the NCAA want go to environments that are welcoming of all of their staff and fans," said Rep. LaFaver.

Rep. LaFaver said he doesn't believe the bill will be sent to committee until after spring break.

However, if it makes it to a full House vote, Lafaver worries it would pass and be placed on the ballot.

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Shannon Halligan can be reached at shannon.halligan@kshb.com.

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