An unexpected hero steps up to halt anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

Posted 5/3/16

When Senate Joint Resolution 39, the so-called “religious freedom” proposal, died in a Missouri House committee on Wednesday, the key vote came from an unexpected source, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford.

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An unexpected hero steps up to halt anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

Posted

When Senate Joint Resolution 39, the so-called “religious freedom” proposal, died in a Missouri House committee on Wednesday, the key vote came from an unexpected source, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford.

He is a retired insurance executive who now operates a small farm in northeast Missouri and attends a local Baptist church. Tall and silver-haired, the former college basketball star is a stalwart rural Republican. But his emotional explanation of his vote not to advance SJR 39 should give pause to those who think it is OK to cite “sincere religious belief” for prejudice against same-sex couples seeking to exercise their constitutional right to marry.

“You’ve got to look in your heart on how you view this bill,” he said in a shaky voice. “They call it religious freedom. ... I feel that I’m free in this country to worship the way I want, and I don’t need a law to tell me how to worship.”

Pausing to gather his emotions, Hansen said, “I put my faith in God. ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ I hope that we as a state can deal with this issue in a humane, Christian way. I have family in this situation. But I love ‘em. As a Christian, not as their judge, not as his judge.”

Missourinet captured the audio. It’s worth listening to. It’s worth memorizing. Two other Republicans, Caleb Rowden of Columbia and Anne Zerr of St. Charles, also voted with the committee’s three Democrats against moving SJR 39 to the House floor. Both Rowden and Zerr are seeking Senate seats.

Zerr cited business opposition to SJR 39 for her vote. But she is involved in a three-way primary in a conservative district; her vote took some courage. Rowden is unopposed in his primary but will face a formidable Democrat, Rep. Stephen Webber, in November in usually Democratic Boone County. As a Christian musician and a worship leader at his evangelical church, his vote took some guts, too.

Hansen predicted that SJR 39 would be back, in some other form, in future legislative sessions. We hope not. Given the plethora of similar bills in other states, the U.S. Supreme Court may have to define the legal boundaries between religious belief and equal rights.

It’s only been 47 years since the Stonewall riots in New York signaled the beginning of gay and lesbian rights as a political movement. The pace of social change has been dizzying; many Americans aren’t yet comfortable with it. Comfort isn’t the issue. Human rights are.

The Americans who bravely came out of the shadows in the last four decades have put human faces on what was, for too many people, an abstract notion. Jim Hansen found that out personally. On Wednesday, he stepped up for a whole lot of Missourians.

— The St Louis Post Dispatch