“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights. Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century. I am announcing today that I am adding four states to the list of states where California-funded or sponsored travel will be restricted on account of the discriminatory nature of laws enacted by those states,” said Attorney General Becerra. “While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back. That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it” [California Office of the Attorney General, press release, 2017.06.22].
The travel ban includes California’s public universities, which means that UC Irvine—or at least the coaches who are state employees—will not be able to return to Sioux Falls to play basketball this year. If any California teams scheduled games in South Dakota or other ban states before California’s anti-discrimination law was enacted on January 1, 2017, those teams may still travel and play, but scheduling future meetings now is out.
Governor Daugaard says the bill is different from other legislation around the country. Daugaard says to some extent South Dakota is compared to North Carolina which experienced a big backlash from business for its stance on transgender.
“If anything, I think South Dakota is compared favorably to places like that, and seen as a more tolerant state than might otherwise be the case.”
Daugaard vetoed a bill last year that placed restrictions on the use of public restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students. He says that may have stalled similar action this year [Jack Taylor, “Daugaard Says South Dakota Is Not Like North Carolina,” KELO Radio, 2017.05.02].
KSFY sent Bridget Bennett to San Francisco to see what locals think of South Dakota’s inclusiveness and their city’s ban on city-funded travel and business with South Dakota and other discriminatory places. San Franciscans sound barely aware of South Dakota in general, let alone our discriminatory laws, but no one Bennett talked to said South Dakota is right to discriminate against LGBT parents:
“People are people and good people make good parents,” [Galen] Maloney, a homeless youth counselor said. “That’s the most important thing, especially when you’re talking about adoption and people just wanting to feel loved.”
Everyone Bennett met in San Francisco shared the same view that LGBT families should have equal rights.
“I think families come in all sorts of forms and shapes and to be part of an alternative family in a state that is a little more conservative, it can definitely be harder and creates a lot more pressure as a family unit,” [Mario] Sosa said.
So even while city employees may not travel to South Dakota that often, San Francisco’s symbolic ban could influence other residents’ travel plans.
“Nobody is going to want to come visit your state,” [Brian] Parent said. “They’re going to be afraid to visit your state, they’re not going to feel welcome and that’s what you should want is people visiting you and seeing what your lifestyle is like and no one is going to want to go there” [Bridget Bennett, “San Francisco Community Discusses Intent of South Dakota Ban,” KSFY, 2017.05.01].
South Dakota—Not as Bigoted as North Carolina!…hmmm…. Governor Daugaard, that line won’t work any better than South Dakota—Not as Deadly as Mars!
For two years running, South Dakota has amassed record tourism numbers. The state Department of Tourism is optimistic about turning the hat trick in 2017.
Those record numbers in 2016 add up to $3.8 billion dollars spent by 13.9 million visitors. Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen sees that national trends are setting up for another possible chart-topper.
“I expect that all the indicators that we’re seeing for 2017 whether it’s coming from the U.S. Travel Association and their economists is that leisure travel is going to be very strong. For the first time in a long time we’re actually seeing families consider taking three vacations. Business travel seems to be picking up a bit. I’m feeling pretty good about 2017” [Dan Peters, “South Dakota Still Must See for Travelers,” KSOO Radio, 2017.03.24].
As an entrepreneur in the technology sector, my success is based on my ability to connect with top tier talent as partners, staff and customers. It would be highly damaging to my business’ brand if I were to associate it with a state that legalizes discrimination. In other words, ironically, this legislation is extremely business unfriendly.
I see in your brochure that major financial services companies have set up shop in your state. I find it hard to believe that their senior executives want their businesses to be associated with this kind of legislation or that they would condone state-facilitated discrimination against their employees or customers. I am copying the CEO’s of each of them on this letter to see if they wish to reply to that question [Randy Horton, letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.03.23].
So South Dakotans, decide what you want. Crappy jobs that don’t pay but the feeling that you’re superior to other people who don’t live their lives quite the same way that you do? Or join the arc of history that bends toward justice—and that might just get you a better paying job.
As that New York Times travel writer saw, South Dakota is an imperfect land filled with wonders. If we want people to come see those wonders and stick around to build some more, we need to work on our imperfections. We need to adopt wages and attitudes better suited to the 21st century.
[Sara DeSmet] just recently started a petition to repeal SB 149, and is hoping to rack up enough signatures to get the Governor’s attention. DeSmet is a supporter of the LGBT community and believes the new law is discriminatory.
“That’s not fair. It’s preventing them from moving forward, especially as far as they’ve come already,” Sara DeSmet said.
Along with dozens of supporters online, Laurie DeSmet and her husband are planning to join the fight.
“The state of South Dakota could come into the 21st century. They’re capable of loving children, of providing them good homes, and education, safety, things that they don’t have for whatever reason they’re in the foster care system,” Laurie DeSmet said [Calah Kelley, “Woman Starts Petition to Repeal Adoption Bill,” KELO-TV, 2017.03.12].
I agree wholeheartedly with the DeSmets’ sentiments. I am pleased to see that, thanks to press coverage, the Change.org protest has drawn (as of 07:07 CDT) 1,722 supporters.
But we understand that an online petition has no force of law. The people to whom this Change.org protest is addressed—Governor Dennis Daugaard, who signed SB 149 last Friday, and Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem, who had nothing to do with the passage of this state law—have no power to repeal this law (not to mention little desire and no formal obligation to respond to this online protest).
Prepare a form that petition circulators can hand out to signers “containing the title of the referred law; the name, phone number, and email address of each petition sponsor; and a statement whether the petition circulator is a volunteer or paid petition circulator and, if a paid circulator, the amount the circulator is being paid” (this is a new onerous requirement foisted upon petitioners by the Legislature last year).
Get the petition and handout approved by the Secretary of State.
Get copies of that petition, the handout, and the rules for circulating in the hands of all of the adult South Dakota residents on your list.
Once those circulators get all the signatures they can, tell them to take their signed sheets to a notary public (go to the courthouse or your favorite bank) and get the notary’s seal on each sheet.
Collect all of those sheets and submit them to Secretary of State by Monday, June 26, 5 p.m. CDT with at least 13,871 valid signatures (if you get 1,000 volunteers from your Change.org protest, and if each one collects 20 signatures, you should have a safe 20,000 signatures, a good cushion target for any referendum drive this year).
Online petitions are good organizing tools, but if we want to repeal SB 149, we need to break out the pens and paper.
Evoking her own personal experience with discrimination as a restaurant owner, District 2 Rep. Lana Greenfield compared Senate Bill 149 to a state law passed 2009 that prohibited smoking in workplaces, restaurants, bars, video lottery and casinos.
This is the part where I had to put the paper down and wait twelve hours before writing.
Representative Greenfield, the situation your describe is not discrimination. The displeasure you experienced at having to obey a law approved by the voters in 2010 bears no resemblance, in principle or degree, to the discrimination some parents in South Dakota will experience when SB 149 allows child-placement agencies to deny them the opportunity to adopt a child.
Representative Greenfield, discrimination is not what you experience when you have to comply with a law that you don’t like. It is not discrimination to have to drive the speed limit, apply for a building permit, or send smokers outside to reduce health risks for patrons and workers in bars and restaurants, because we impose those requirements on everyone who drives, builds, or tends bar. The indoor smoking ban (SDCL 34-46-14) does not discriminate against white, female, Christian Lana Greenfield or anyone else.
While Lana makes up discrimination where there is none, her son, Senator Brock Greenfield, denies discrimination where it plainly exists:
District 2 Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said the bill was not discriminating against anyone based on religious beliefs but releasing private placement services from being dictated by government policy.
“So simply put, this is not about discrimination its about allowing a private sector with a religious tie to determine whether they are going to engage in providing adoption services for people,” he said [Marvel, 2017.03.04].
Paper down, breathe, distract….
Senator Greenfield, Southern lunch counters in the 1950s were private dining services. We enacted government policy to dictate that they had to serve black customers alongside white customers. Would like to release those poor, oppressed private services from that government policy?
SB 149 is not about determining whether to provide adoption services for people. SB 149 is about allowing adoption agencies to provide adoption service to some people but not to other people based on religious convictions, which will be used to justify discriminating against prospective parents who fail to meet certain religious litmus tests.
SB 149 is all about discrimination. Senator Greenfield, I suggest you may not believe that statement, or you may not care, only because you imagine you are a good enough Christian that you would never be subjected to the discrimination SB 149 intends.
Senator Greenfield, I can imagine that discrimination being applied to me. I’m a reasonably good parent (my child is literate and mostly happy, and she will be fed, dressed, and at the school door in the morning by 7:55), but if I ever decide to open my home to another child, I can easily imagine your favored adoption agencies saying, “You can’t be a good parent because you don’t go to our church….”
…to which my immediate, heartfelt response is the reason I needed to put the paper down and chill before writing this response.
Representative Lana Greenfield, you don’t know discrimination. Senator Brock Greenfield, you won’t admit discrimination.
Senate Bill 149 is discrimination that Lana and Brock want to write into state law. We should pressure the Senate and the Governor to stop that from happening.
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.”
After hearing numerous supporters doggedly avoid stating the real anti-LGBT intent of SB 149, Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, intelligently explained how SB 149 uses “broad and sweeping language” to “allow religion to be used to discriminate against loving, qualified parents who wish to open their homes to kids without them” (start listening at 79:20 of the SDPB audio). She said SB 149 would allow any child placement agency (not just faith-based or entirely private agencies—read the definition!) to turn away prospective parents based on “explicitly religious criteria” excluding “not only same-sex couples, but also people who have a different religion [from] the agency, single parents, interfaith couples… families that don’t attend church weekly, servicemembers or gun owners… based on the agency’s moral conviction regarding pacifism, all while children in need of homes languish in foster care and await permanent families. This bill even authorizes agencies to deny a child placement with a close relative and instead place that child with strangers if that relative is of the wrong religion….”
As the smartest, clearest speaker in the room Wednesday, Libby Skarin also pronounced her name clearly at the beginning of her testimony: the last name is /skreen/.
Demonstrating at the very least that they weren’t listening closely to testimony, Senator Neal Tapio and Senator Phil Jensen both mispronounced Skarin’s name (Tapio: /SKAR-kin/; Jensen: /ka-RIN, KA-rin/).
Senator Tapio asked Skarin (104:08) if an adoption agency can discriminate against prospective parents with a religious belief in female genital mutilation. Senator Jensen asked Skarin if a known pedophile should be allowed to adopt a child. Skarin said neither such placement would be in the best interest of the child. Senator Jensen said such denial is a “judgment call.” Yet both Senators miss a crucial point: the behaviors they describe are felonies under state law (female genital mutilation: SDCL 28-18-37; pedophilia, Chapter 22-22). Tapio and Jensen are equating felony behavior with behaviors the state cannot punish, like not going to a certain church or any church or not being married to a person of the opposite sex.
In other words, Tapio and Jensen are saying that if you don’t fly right with their church, you might as well be a criminal.
SB 149 passed committee 5–2 (thank you, Chair Deb Soholt, for joining Senator Kevin Killer in voting nay). On the floor Thursday, Senator Billie Sutton invoked Rule 5-17, delaying consideration of SB 149 until this Wednesday, February 22, which gives decent folks plenty of time to e-mail Tapio and Jensen to misspell their names, then contact other, more sensible legislators and get them to vote no on this attempt to wedge Sharia for Jesus into our adoption laws.
The bill would allow child-placing agencies to deny services to a child because he or she is of a different religion, or discriminate against would-be parents because based upon their sexual orientation or marital status.
SB 149 would allow an agency that receives state funds to use religious criteria in choosing families for children. While the obvious target of the bill is to allow agencies to turn away gay and lesbian parents, in practice the law would open up the adoption system to all sorts of discrimination.
The bill would allow an adoption agency to turn away a loving aunt who could provide the best home for her nephew because she’s divorced. It could be used to stand in the way of adoption by interfaith families, or allow an adoption agency of one faith to say “no” to parents of another.
It’s wrong, and the people who will be hurt the most are the children in need of a home and the families who want to provide it [Bill Mawhiney, “Strengthen, Don’t Limit Foster Families,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.02.10].
Mawhiney’s mention of interfaith families reminds me that SB 149 targets my family. My wife and I have differing religious views. The results we see in our daughter so far suggest we parent with reasonable effectiveness. If we decide to adopt, SB 149 would allow certain adoption agencies to turn away our offer to do our best for a child in need.
I’ll be polite and say that’s counterproductive.
Mawhiney ought to have an easier time passing the SB 149 religious litmus test than I would. But he still rejects religious discrimination:
I’m a Christian and I believe in the freedom of religion. It’s one of the core values of our country. But freedom of religion shouldn’t be used as a reason to deny kids the home they need and deserve. Religious freedom is not a license to deny vulnerable children loving parents [Mawhiney, 2017.02.10].
You know, I was adopted once. I’m not sure my parents would have been able to pass any religious test, but they did a good job on me (thanks, Mom! thanks, Dad!).
But the latest Republican “Sharia for Jesus” ploy might have given their adoption agency the right to say, “Y’all aren’t on fire for the Lord enough—no baby Cory for you!”
Senate Bill 149, introduced by Senator Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City) and Representative Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents (and, arguably, adoptees) who somehow violate the agencies’ religion or morals:
The state may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child-placement agency or an organization seeking to become a child-placement agency on the basis, wholly or partly, that the child-placement agency has declined or will decline to provide any service that conflicts with, or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the child-placement agency [2017 SB 149, Section 4, introduced 2017.02.01].
This time, Republicans are testing their ability to sneak bigotry in to law by wrapping a pro-discrimination bill around adorable little babies. (That tack works for unconstitutional abortion restriction, so why not unconstitutional religious discrimination?) The language of SB 149 matches some of the phraseology of last year’s faux religious freedom bill; SB 149 has simply been pared down to applied strictly to child placement agencies.
First Amendment hawks, watch SB 149 carefully. Parents raising children according to their own religious beliefs is just fine. However, does the state really want to find itself in the position of giving tax dollars to a Muslim adoption agency that refuses to place children with anyone other than good Muslim parents?
Let’s keep religious discrimination out of our statutes. Leave religion to parents and churches, and keep discrimination out of our adoption agencies.