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Kansas City Businesses Express Concern Over Proposed Religious Freedom Bill In Missouri

Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri legislators are considering a bill that would allow organizations and individuals to deny service to same-sex couples based on  religious beliefs, and that has left some commerce groups in Kansas City worried about the possible economic impact.

Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of VisitKC, says passage of the bill, known as SJR 39, would put Kansas City — and Missouri — in a tight spot. In an interview with KCUR's Steve Kraske on Up To Date, he compared the Missouri bill to one passed in Indiana in 2015, which resulted in intense pressure by the NCAA to move that year’s Final Four basketball tournament from the state.

“There were a lot of people on my team who worked very hard to get the Big XII to stay [in Kansas City] for four years,” Burt says. “That’s $52 million in economic impact that are at potential risk.”

Joe Reardon, president of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, agrees that the possibility of losing that revenue is just too big a pill to swallow. He says the executive committee of his organization, which represents chamber board members, has voted to oppose the bill.

Missouri State Senator Ed Emery, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, says the support is there to pass the provision.

“There are 166,000 businesses in Missouri and I think a lot of those are definitely in support of this,” he says.

He says the economic impact in Missouri is being overstated, and that we cannot neglect the religious community.

The bill is currently awaiting action in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Luke Martin is an associate producer for KCUR's Up To Date. 

The Kansas City region has long been a place where different ways of life collide. I tell the stories of people living and working where race, culture and ethnicity intersect. I examine racial equity and disparity, highlight the area's ethnic groups and communities of color, and invite all of Kansas City to explore meaningful ways to bond with and embrace cultures different from their own. Email me at luke@kcur.org.