First anti-LGBT law in 2017 allows adoption agencies to discriminate
South Dakota now has the distinction of being the first state to pass the first anti-LGBT law in 2017, one that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT adoptive parents.
Supposedly a “protection of religious freedom,” the state legislature of South Dakota passed a law that allows child-placement agencies that receive state funds to refuse children and families their services on the grounds of religious objections.
The law, Senate bill 149 or SB 149, is currently awaiting South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s signature.
Anti-LGBT law among states
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted that this law is the first among many pending in other states that would target the LGBTQ community.
“You won’t find any references to sexual orientation or gender identity in Senate Bill 149, but this and the dozens of other bills percolating across the country are being promoted by the same groups that are fighting tooth and nail to undermine equality for LGBT people,” warned Eunice Hyon Min Rho, ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel.
“What makes the South Dakota bill and others pending in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas (here and here) especially galling is the callous disregard for kids in the foster care system who desperately need loving families to care for them,” Hyon Min Rho added.
She pointed out that just because a South Dakotan is “LGBT, divorced, or don’t attend church regularly,” they could be denied by these agencies in fostering a child.
The first anti-LGBT law for 2017
SB 149 is the first anti-LGBT law passed for this year, one among the many broadly-written religious exemption laws being pushed by anti-LGBT groups.
These laws, while similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and First Amendment Defense Acts, use religion to discriminate against LGBT people abut are more narrow in their discriminatory scope.
In South Dakota, SB 149 was passed by the Republican-controlled House with a vote of 43-20-7. It then passed in the Senate with a vote of 22-12 and is now up to the Republican governor’s approval.
In particular, the law deems an agency cannot be denied taxpayer subsidies as long as it adheres to its own rules, like religious statements or conscience clauses.
Likewise, a section of the bill commits to allowing faith-based organizations funding regardless of whatever discriminatory policies they set up for child placement.
The first anti-LGBT law for 2017
In response to an inquiry by Washington Blade, Kelsey Pritchard, the spokesperson for Gov. Daugaard, said the governor has not yet decided he’ll sign the bill.
However, Gov. Daugaard has five days to veto it or else it becomes law on its own.
Interesting enough, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill in 2016 discriminating against transgender students from using public restrooms. This caused such a big backlash such that Gov. Daugaard vetoed the bill.
Urging Gov. Daugaard to once again veto a discriminatory legislation, Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, said: “We hope (Daugaard) will show the same courage for South Dakota’s LGBT community and those children in desperate need of loving and safe homes.”