05/01/2012 09:56 am ET

Missouri Birther Bill Moves Forward

State senators in Missouri voted to advance a birther bill this week, allowing potential floor debate on the measure to force presidential candidates to prove their status as natural-born citizens before getting on the ballot.

Missouri lawmakers voted 4-to-1 to pass the bill out of a Senate committee.

The legislation had earlier passed a vote in the state House after a contentious debate that had led to charges of racism from its opposition. Supporters have maintained that the bill, which wouldn't go into effect until 2016, has nothing to do with persistent conspiracy theories about the eligibility of Barack Obama to be president and the authenticity of his birth certificate.

Republican state Senator Luann Ridgeway is in favor of the measure, but she told Missouri's KMOX that it might simply be too controversial to take up on the Senate floor.

"I completely understand the concerns of people who want to make sure that our Constitution is willing to be obeyed," she said. "Our president is supposed to be born in the United States. But, I just don’t know if there are enough people out there that are willing to stand up in opposition to it."

The state Senate has three weeks left in the current legislative session to address the bill.