South Dakota Becomes First State In 2017 To Pass Anti-LGBT Legislation

The Midwest state is one of many advancing anti-LGBT laws.

Credit: The New York Times

On March 10th, South Dakota became the first U.S. state to sign anti-LGBT legislation in the year of 2017. The ACLU reports that Governor Dennis Daugaard signed SB149 which allows agencies to refuse to provide service based on religious or moral convictions. The first-of-its-kind legislation to be passed within the country this year, LGBT activist fear similar legislation will be pushed forward elsewhere.

SB149 is controversial, as it essentially makes it legal for taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT people. Repercussions of the bill extend beyond an owner of a privately owned business turning away interested customers. Rather, LGBT youth will be put at risk, as well as prospective LGBT couples who are looking to foster or adopt children. The Conservative bill also targets interfaith couples, single parents and married couples where one partner has previously been divorced.

The law was deemed a “dark new reality” for LGBT rights by Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. She commented:

“Governor Daugaard’s action not only puts the best interests of the more than a thousand vulnerable children served by South Dakota’s foster care system at risk, it signals the potential of a dark new reality for the fight for LGBTQ rights.”

The activist pointed out that children within the foster system may be forced to wait longer periods of time to find satisfactory homes.

“These children could now wait longer to be placed in a safe, loving home at the whim of a state-funded adoption or foster care agency with a vendetta against LGBTQ couples, mixed-faith couples or interracial couples — all while being taxpayer-funded,” stated Warbelow.

Credit: Washington Blade

James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBT Project expressed similar, commenting:

“Today’s signing of S.B. 149 is deeply troubling not only because it opens the door to widespread discrimination against LGBT people and children in South Dakota, but because it’s only one of many bills moving through state legislatures across the country that authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT Americans. These laws run contrary to one of our core American values: the rule of law, which means we are all held to and protected by the same laws. These exemptions encourage people to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow based on their religious beliefs.”

Other legislatures across the country are aggressively pursuing similar measures, such as Texas (S.B. 892 and H.B. 1805), Oklahoma (H.B. 1507), and Alabama (S.B. 145).

Though local and national child welfare experts, including The Adoption Exchange, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of Social Workers, and Voice for Adoption, sent letters opposing the Bill, the Governor gave the measure the green light. In response to the development, Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota remarked:

“We’re deeply disappointed by Governor Daugaard’s decision to green light Senate Bill 149. This discriminatory legislation takes South Dakota in the wrong direction, and sends the message that our leaders are more concerned with the desires of religious agencies than the rights of individuals and children in our state.”

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