REPORT: Gay Republican ponders party’s push for religious liberty legislation

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A view of the south side of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City (Zachary Reger)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this story was gathered from interviews conducted throughout the Missouri General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, which ran from January to mid-May.


JEFFERSON CITY — Zachary Wyatt-Gomez, 31, a former Missouri representative and openly gay Republican, is an ideological harbinger—a man whose own life story mirrors the morphing philosophy of his seemingly fractured party.

But Wyatt’s experience also highlights a growing divide within the GOP, an uneasy coalition straining to establish some form of consensus between its business-minded and socially conservative wings.

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Zachary Wyatt-Gomez

It’s a divide that served as tinder for this spring’s religious liberty showdown in the Missouri General Assembly.

Senate Joint Resolution 39, a Republican-sponsored religious liberty constitutional amendment, was first presented as a way to protect the socially conservative beliefs and practices of ordinary citizens from overbearing government oversight.

Opponents argued the resolution would legalize discrimination.

Specifically, SJR 39 would have allowed some wedding-related businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on a “sincere religious belief.”

After passing the state Senate, the resolution was defeated in a House committee on April 27.

SJR 39 needed a simple majority to pass the committee and continue its journey to the House floor. The vote was 6-6.

Continue reading “REPORT: Gay Republican ponders party’s push for religious liberty legislation”

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Trump and women

An article in Sunday’s New York Times – a critical investigation into Donald Trump’s personal and professional relationships with various women – has sparked outrage among some of his supporters.

Rowanne Brewer Lane, a model quoted in the piece, believes her story of borderline sexual harassment was taken out of context. On Fox and Friends, she explained that she “did not have a negative experience with Donald Trump.”

However, some media outlets have defended the Times’ article. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post criticized Fox News’ reaction to Lane’s comments.

Last fall, Fox Host Megyn Kelly challenged Trump on his history of alleged sexist rhetoric during one of the network’s Republican primary debates. Later, Trump and Fox feuded over possibly inappropriate claims the former had made about Kelly, with Trump deciding to boycott a separate Fox debate soon after.

For the piece, Times reporters claim they conducted more than 50 interviews over a six week period.

Missouri 2016 legislative session concludes with pair of wins for GOP

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A view of the south side of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City (Zachary Reger)

The final days of the Missouri General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session saw passage of a pro-gun rights omnibus bill, as well as support for a constitutional amendment, subject to public referendum, to require photo ID for all voters in the state.

Both proposals were supported by Republicans, who hold a majority in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 656 was passed by the legislature on Friday, the final day of the session. The bill would expand the state’s “castle doctrine,” allowing invited guests to use deadly force against intruders in a home. Also introduced was a new “stand your ground” privilege, which would nullify the requirement that one first attempt to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker.

SB 656 now heads to the governor’s desk. If Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoes the bill, the legislature will have the opportunity to override the decision during a special session in September. A two-thirds majority from the House and Senate would be required.

On Thursday, the Legislature gave final approval to House Joint Resolution 53, a proposed constitutional amendment to require photo ID for voters in Missouri elections.

As a joint resolution, the proposal will bypass the governor’s veto power and head straight to the public as a ballot measure this fall. If a majority of voters approve the amendment, it will become an official part of the Missouri Constitution.

Read the Missourian’s coverage of HJR 53 hereand the Associated Press’ coverage of SB 656 here.

Lawmakers, businesses espouse different solutions to Missouri’s gender pay gap

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to students at Rock Bridge High School April 15 in Columbia.

Research from the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri says that women in Missouri, on average, make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. For the country as a whole, it’s 78 cents.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has signed multiple executive orders to try and address the so-called gender pay gap within the state workforce.

Some Missouri lawmakers have promoted pay equity protection bills, although few, if any, have passed in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Others, such as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, are against further equal pay legislation. To them, adequate law already exists, and the difference in pay is primarily due to larger culturally-ingrained factors. To fix this, we must focus instead on better education practices and social programs, they say.

Read the Missourian’s coverage of the different approaches to addressing equal pay here.

Key Republican votes brought down religious liberty measure

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Rep. Hansen, a religious Republican, comes out against SJR 39.

Senate Joint Resolution 39, a proposed religious liberty amendment to the Missouri Constitution, was defeated in committee on April 27.

The Republican-sponsored measure needed a simple majority to pass before continuing its journey to the House floor for full debate. The vote was 6-6.

Six Republicans voted in favor, with three Democrats and three Republicans voting in opposition.

Without the votes of the three opposing Republicans – Rep. Jim Hansen of Frankford, Rep. Caleb Rowden of Columbia and Rep. Anne Zerr of St. Charles – SJR 39 would have passed.

Read the Missourian’s coverage of the votes against Senate Joint Resolution 39 here.

What can a journalist do that no one else can?

Journalists do quite a bit.

We enlighten and entertain. We further democratic values by bringing voice to the underserved and underprivileged. We promote intellectual tolerance and diversity by remaining objective heralds. Further, we keep watch on the powerful and keep watch over the powerless.

But there’s nothing special about any of these things; there’s nothing special about what a journalist can do.

With a pad and paper, anyone could do these things.

But most won’t.

Journalism isn’t unique. It isn’t exciting. It isn’t adventurous.

It is necessary.

Will Trump win?

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CC BY-SA 2.0 Gage Skidmore

General election polling suggests that Donald Trump would have a tough time besting Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

For example, a polling-average matchup from Real Clear Politics currently puts Clinton 6.5 points ahead of The Donald. Not an overly large margin, to be sure, but a comfortable lead nonetheless.

However, some, such as Philip Wallach of the Washington Post, believe the race could be much closer than the polls suggest.

As some have pointed out, both candidates would have record-setting “unfavorability” ratings. This could lead to anemic turnout in a downright messy general election. Conventional wisdom might no longer apply.

What do you think? Either way, we’re likely to set historical precedent. Either we elect the first female United States president, or we elect the first to hold the office with no prior political experience.

And that’s not even counting a potential independent campaign.

It’ll be an interesting year.