Extra Shot: A Conservative Republican Casts A Deciding Vote Against The 'Religious Shield' | KCUR

Extra Shot: A Conservative Republican Casts A Deciding Vote Against The 'Religious Shield'

Apr 29, 2016

Since Wednesday, when Missouri Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, cast one of the deciding votes against the “religious shield” proposal, he’s been called a hero by some and a traitor by others.

On the whole, though, he said reaction has been positive.

“I had a lot of colleagues come up and congratulate me and say it took real courage,” Hansen told host Brian Ellison Friday on the Statehouse Blend podcast. “Different people have come up, and one told me it’s the most courage he’s seen in the building in the last 20 years. So I felt real good about it.”

The constitutional amendment, SJR 39, would have provided legal protections for Missourians who chose not to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies for reasons of religious belief. Supporters — including some religious organizations — said it was necessary to protect religious freedom. Opponents — including other religious leaders and many business groups — said it would enshrine discrimination in the state constitution with unintended consequences.

Hansen joined with two other Republicans and three Democrats to leave the House Emerging Issues Committee knotted in a 6-6 tie (six Republicans voted in favor). That meant the proposal won’t advance to the full House barring an unforeseen parliamentary maneuver and is likely dead for this year.

Hansen’s speech, which was recorded by Missourinet, before the vote was highly emotional.

“It’s been quite a journey trying to sort through this,” Hansen said. “It took time to digest a lot of opinions and all the issues that this impacts.”

Hansen represents several counties of mostly rural areas and small towns in northeastern Missouri, including his hometown for Frankford, population 323, just south of Hannibal. He’s already heard from many of his constituents.

“I’ve had mixed response,” Hansen said. “There’s been a few that were very upset with the vote, but I look forward to a chance to sit down and go through my reasoning and the process I went through.”

Hansen attends a Baptist church and spoke at length about his Christian faith in his committee speech. On Statehouse Blend, Hansen reflected on a conversation he had with his pastor before casting his vote.

“One of his sayings is, ‘For those of you who are Christians, if you trust what the legislature or court does, then you’ve already misplaced your trust.’” Hansen said. “You can’t place your trust in man, you’ve got to place your trust in God.”

Hansen said the religious arguments were his “heart speaking” but also noted that he agreed with legal arguments that the amendment would be unconstitutional.

Hansen said he was not concerned about political consequences he might suffer from conservatives in his own Republican party. He also rejected a newspaper editorial’s labeling of him as a “hero.”

“I’m not a hero,” Hansen said. “I don’t put myself in that category. I did what I think was best at this time. Time will tell.”

Brian Ellison is a host/contributor at KCUR and co-host of Statehouse Blend. He can be reached at brian@kcur.org or followed @ptsbrian.  Matthew Hodapp is producer of Statehouse Blend.