Politically Speaking: Rep. Colona on the defeat of 'religious shield' — and legislative service | St. Louis Public Radio

Politically Speaking: Rep. Colona on the defeat of 'religious shield' — and legislative service

May 3, 2016

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Rep. Mike Colona to the program. The St. Louis Democrat was a guest on the show back in 2013.

Colona was first elected to office in 2008, and represents a swath of central and south St. Louis. He will be leaving the Missouri House later this year due to term limits.

The four-term lawmaker played a big role in the debate over a constitutional amendment, widely known as SJR 39, that would shield businesses and individuals that refused to provide certain services to same-sex couples. Colona, the only openly gay member of the Missouri General Assembly, was on a House committee that ultimately voted down the amendment. Three Republicans – state Reps. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles, and Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia – voted against the measure, effectively killing it for the time being.

As for his future plans, Colona plans to take some time off from elective office after he departs from the legislature later this year. He does, however, plan to keep applying for a judgeship.

Here’s what else Colona had to say during the show:

  • Colona said legal memos about SJR 39’s constitutionality sowed doubts among Republican legislators. “We had gotten a few legal memos from Husch-Blackwell and Columbia University regarding some of the drafting errors and potential unintended consequences of SJR 39,” he said. “And I would tell you that for most of the members of the committee, those memos were significant.”
  • He noted that opposition to SJR 39 was one of the first times he has sided with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce on a major issue.
  • But he also said the three Republicans on the committee who voted "no" were wrestling with “how Christians are supposed to react to something like this.” “Does this SJR really reflect true Christian values,” he said, asking rhetorically whether wedding vendors could refuse service to a divorcee that was getting remarried.
  • Still, Colona noted that the defeat of the amendment will probably not help efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s human rights laws. That means if somebody is fired from their job because they’re gay and they file a lawsuit, their legal action won’t be successful. Colona cites the Missouri Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to such a move as a big impediment.
  • Colona said the key for Democrats getting ahead in the super minority is partnering with Republicans and letting them handle bills that they care about. “There are a lot of folks that agree with a lot of things we want to do,” he said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Mike Colona on Twitter: @RepMikeColona

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