The South Dakota Legislature has failed another moral test. This afternoon the House gave final approval* to Senate Bill 149, an overly broad “Sharia for Jesus” wedge bill that seeks to make it harder for gay couples to become parents.
Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, hopes the Governor will have the good sense to veto this bad bill:
Senate Bill 149 is a harmful and discriminatory piece of legislation that sets South Dakota backward. This would allow state-funded child placement agencies, based on their religious beliefs, to discriminate against children and prospective parents. Loving, qualified families could be turned away simply because they are LGBT, of a different faith than the agency, or divorced. The hundreds of children who are awaiting forever families in our state deserve better than this. Their best interests should be our priority, not the religious beliefs of these agencies.
We hope that Governor Daugaard recognizes the harm that discriminatory laws like SB 149 cause our state and considers a veto. If SB 149 becomes law, we want to hear from you or any child or family you know that is harmed. We will be examining our legal options [Libby Skarin, press release, ACLU-SD, 2017.03.02].
SB 149 isn’t about helping children find good parents. Quite the opposite, actually. Governor Daugaard, please save us from our own legislators.
SB 149 passed the House this afternoon 43–20, with seven excused. SB 149 passed the Senate 22–12, with one excused. Were the Governor to veto SB 149, it would take 47 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate to override.
Correction 18:57 CST: Whoops! The House tacked an amendment onto SB 149, meaning SB 149 goes back to the Senate for concurrence before going to the Governor. The amendment, moved by Rep. Timothy Johns (R-31/Lead), adds that the religious belief or moral conviction that a child-placement agency wants to invoke to deny services must be “contained in a written policy, statement of faith, or other document adhered to by a child-placement agency.” It requires that a child-placement agency that chooses deems parents religiously unworthy of its services must provide those rejects with a document listing the Department of Social Services website and a list of other licensed child-placement agencies. Finally, the Johns amendment adds a new section specifying that one child-placement agency’s choice to religiously discriminate against prospective parents “shall not be a factor in determining whether a placement in connection with the service is in the best interest of the child.”