Sports Commission: 'Religious freedom' bill could hurt St. Louis - KMOV.com

Sports Commission: 'Religious freedom' bill could hurt St. Louis economy

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A gay-rights supporter holds a flag outside the Capitol in Jefferson City. Republican lawmakers have advanced measures in about a dozen states that could strengthen religious protections . (AP Photos) A gay-rights supporter holds a flag outside the Capitol in Jefferson City. Republican lawmakers have advanced measures in about a dozen states that could strengthen religious protections . (AP Photos)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Business and community leaders from across the state of Missouri went to Jefferson City Tuesday afternoon to speak both for and against the "religious freedom" bill -- which protects businesses that would deny their services for same-sex weddings.

Marc Schreiber, spokesperson for the Sports Commission, says millions of dollars are at stake for the St. Louis area and the state.

The NCAA, the SEC and the Big 12 have let states know that they are opposed to such measures and local leaders are afraid sporting events, conventions, businesses may bypass Missouri if SJR39 goes forward.

Read: Baker's Facebook post on religious freedom bill goes viral

“We stand to lose millions and millions of dollars in direct visitor spending should this pass through the house and ultimately go to a vote of voters in Missouri,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber added that the St. Louis Sports Commission is about to start bidding to host NCAA championships from 2019 to 2022.

He says St. Louis could host events such as the Frozen Four, women's volleyball, basketball and wrestling events.

“You add it all up, you're talking $50 to $60 million in direct spending should this legislation move forward we're going to lose all that,” Schreiber said.

Michael Sam, the Mizzou grad who became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL recently wrote an op-ed piece speaking out against SJR39. Businesses are signing a website pledge that says it doesn't support their values. But those who do support are also rallying and are calling upon a quick passage of the bill and want to get it on a statewide ballot.

Read: Bryan Adams cancels Biloxi show citing new religious freedom law

Republican State Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, says the Missouri Baptist Convention, Assembly of God and Missouri Catholic Conference support his bill.

“I don't think there's going to be an economic impact at all, in fact, I think it is a good thing Missourians vote to protect religious liberty,” Onder said.

Schreiber doesn’t agree when it comes to the economic impact, saying the proposed legislation could present to St. Louis and the rest of Missouri.

“We already have challenges,” Schreiber said. “This is one more thing, it could very well be a deciding factor. It could very well be an issue where our event partners say because of what's been passed in Missouri we're not going to award any events to St. Louis, Kansas City or any other communities in the state.”

Schreiber says the message he's delivering to lawmakers regarding the bill doesn't focus on the morality, ethics, or values of the bill but rather the economics.

The senate passed the amendment last month after a 39-hour filibuster. 

The house started the hearing Tuesday night, but no action was taken. It still faces several hurdles, including a full house vote, before it goes to the ballot for voters to decide on. News 4 will continue to follow this story. 

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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