JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster and Republican former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens will face off Nov. 8 in Missouri’s gubernatorial election. The Associated Press asked the candidates by phone about various social issues. Here’s how they responded:
Should Missouri allow for the medical use of marijuana?
KOSTER: “I come out of the law enforcement community and have opposed the recreational use of marijuana in our state. I am open-minded to signing a medical marijuana bill if it was tightly written, had adequate safeguards around it and was a bipartisan measure sent to the governor’s office by the General Assembly.”
GREITENS: “I am opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. I believe that in certain circumstances — for example, children who have epilepsy — where there is proven scientific evidence that a cannabis oil treatment can help those kids, then of course we need to be compassionate and make sure that we’re helping kids who have epilepsy get the treatment they need. So while I support that, I am opposed to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.”
The U.S Supreme Court this summer struck down Texas laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. Missouri has similar laws. In light of the Supreme Court ruling, should those Missouri laws be repealed?
KOSTER: “The attorney general’s office is presently involved in litigation on this question and, consequently, I think it is most appropriate if I continue to do my duty as attorney general on this matter and respectfully decline to respond until I turn my duties over to the next attorney general.”
GREITENS: “I’ll tell you how I approach this. I am pro-life life, I believe that we need to protect every life and that we need to defend the lives of the unborn. For me, this isn’t just something I talk about, this is work that I have actually done. I have worked in Cambodia with kids who lost limbs to land mines and are survivors of polio. I’ve worked in Bolivia with children of the street. I’ve worked in one of Mother Theresa’s homes for the destitute and dying. And I’ve seen the amazing power that comes when we have leaders who are willing to bring people together and make it clear that every life matters. As a pro-life leader, I think it’s essential that we help every woman who finds herself in a difficult situation — that she knows that she’s loved, that she’s supported, that she’s got a community of people around her that support her in a difficult time. And that’s the kind of pro-life leadership that I’m going to bring to the state of Missouri.”
Do you support legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?
KOSTER: “Yes, I believe that the question goes to whether or not Missouri should pass the Missouri Non-discrimination Act, which has been before the Legislature for many years. I have testified in favor of MONA each year that it has come before the General Assembly. I have a non-discrimination policy that is longstanding in the attorney general’s office. Gov. Nixon has a non-discrimination executive order that applies to the executive branch as a whole, and I intend to continue Gov. Nixon’s non-discrimination order if I have the opportunity to serve in that role.”
GREITENS: “I believe in non-discrimination. I believe that we need to protect everyone’s rights, and we absolutely need to make sure that there is no discrimination in the state of Missouri. I believe that all decisions about hiring and firing and paying and promotion need to be based on merit. And that’s how I ran my business, that’s how we ran The Mission Continues, that’s what we practiced in the United States military — we practiced non-discrimination. And I believe we can have a Missouri where we are both protecting everyone’s religious freedom while at the same time practicing non-discrimination. I think we need to look very carefully at every piece of legislation that comes forth to make sure that these bills are not just designed by trial lawyers to give them more excuses to sue businesses here in the state of Missouri. My commitment is to protect the religious freedoms of all Missourians while also making sure that we practice non-discrimination.”
Do you support measures that would allow some businesses to decline to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs?
KOSTER: “I do support a law that would protect religious leaders from being forced to engage in ceremonies that violate their religious precepts. However, I do not believe Missouri should expand that law beyond religious leaders themselves. Last year, the question of Senate Joint Resolution 39 came before the body which would have codified a level of antipathy toward the gay community in the Missouri Constitution. I do not believe it is in our state’s best interest to ever fly a flag of discrimination above our state’s business community. We have seen states like Indiana and North Carolina fly these flags of discrimination above their states to their obvious and considerable detriment.”
GREITENS: “I opposed the specific legislation, SJR39, that came up last year, but I’m going to work together with the faith-based community and the business community to make sure that we protect everyone’s religious freedom while we make sure that there that there is non-discrimination. I think that in Missouri, no pastor, no priest or no rabbi should ever be forced to participate in any ceremony that they disagree with. And we can bring together the religious community and the business community to make sure that we’re both protecting religious freedoms while at the same time practicing non-discrimination.”