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GOP attorney general candidate seeks to protect opponents of same-sex marriage

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Law professor Josh Hawley, now a Republican candidate for Missouri attorney general, is calling on the state’s legislative leaders to take action to protect opponents of same-sex marriage.

Hawley has sent a letter to House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, in which he asks them “to make sure religious liberty is at the top of the agenda’’ when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

Hawley is proposing that lawmakers consider crafting legislation that would protect churches, ministers and religious organizations or institutions from being “fined or sued or punished by the government in any way for following centuries-old religious teaching on marriage.”

Hawley is seeking similar protections for any “business person of faith,’’ who he says may otherwise be “forced to participate in or service a wedding ceremony that violates his or her sincere religious convictions.”

Hawley asserted in the letter that such actions were necessary because President Barack Obama’s administration, in his opinion, “has been the most hostile administration to religious liberty in our nation’s history.’’

Hawley's proposal is in line with an earlier pledge, made this fall, that -- if elected attorney general -- he'd defend public officials who refuse to sanction same-sex marriages.

He is on leave from his post as a law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Hawley is competing against state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, for next year's GOP nomination for attorney general.

Both men have made a point of highlighting their socially conservative views. Schaefer is chairing a legislative committee that has been holding hearings on Planned Parenthood's operations around the state. Schaefer has sought to end abortions at the agency's clinic in Columbia, and has been critical of the clinic's longstanding relationship with the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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