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0000017b-27e8-d2e5-a37b-7fffd9f70000On November 8, Missourians chose their next governor, determined races for U.S. congressional seats and several for the Missouri statehouse. In addition, voters decided among five proposed changes to the Missouri constitution.See the election results here, and view our coverage below on the local candidates and issues. Post election, we're continuing to add to our coverage with related content.

Missouri Gubernatorial Candidates Address LGBT Discrimination at Branson Forum

Michele Skalicky

The candidates for governor of Missouri squared off in a debate Friday at Chateau on the Lake in Branson.  It was sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. 

The candidates were asked about several topics, including whether or not they support legislation that would bar government penalties against certain institutions and businesses that cite religion while declining to provide wedding-related services to same sex couples and how they feel about adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s nondiscrimination ordinance. 

Independent candidate Lester Turilli said he supports the legislation protecting businesses against government penalties.  He said businesses and institutions should be able to perform duties “that are innate to that particular denomination.”

He said he’s against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance because he thinks that would make discrimination “more prevalent in our state.”

Green Party candidate, Don Fitz said, “there’s been way too much discrimination” and “entirely too much hate in Missouri politics and United States politics over the last several years.”  He said any sort of law that would allow discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation should be banned in Missouri.

And he said there is “absolutely no question” the nondiscrimination ordinance should be amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Democrat Chris Koster, too, said he supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination ordinance.  He believes that “Missouri should protect religious leaders from having to participate in ceremonies that are against their faith.”  Beyond that, he said, he doesn’t think Missouri should “fly a flag of discrimination over the business community.” According to Koster, states that have passed legislation similar to a bill that moved through the legislature last year barring government penalties against businesses and institutions that refuse to provide wedding-related services to same sex couples have lost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”  Koster said, “I believe that economic growth in the future of this country is correlated with cultural openness, and economic decline is correlated with stagnation.”

Eric Greitens, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he served as a Navy Seal at a time when the military was able to “protect everyone’s religious freedom while at the same time ensuring nondiscrimination.”  No religious leader, he said, should have to be forced to participate in a ceremony that’s against what their faith believes.  He said Missouri needs leaders who are willing to stand up for people who need protection.  He used his time answering the question to get a dig in on Koster for “voting against legislation that would have protected the privacy of rape victims” and that he said would have made victims pay for their own rape kits.  Koster, in his rebuttal, said he wondered if Grietens had read the bill.  He said he voted against it because a section allowed “the possibility of killers who had been put behind bars for life without parole to be let out potentially on manufactured evidence.”

Libertarian Cisse Spraggins said she “supports the American value of freedom of association and the separation of church and state.”  According to Spraggins, a pastor shouldn’t have to perform a ceremony for a gay couple if it’s not their belief “nor do I think a bakery should have to bake a cake for a gay wedding if it’s not their belief.”  She said freedom of association helps people know “who the bigots are, quite frankly.”  She feels when you try to force your values on someone else it creates hate not peace, which she said is what Libertarians seek.