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.
The early entrants in the Legislative hopper include a lot of seemingly small provisions. Here’s a Friday snack platter of nibbles around the policy edges:
HB 1013 would free homeschool second-graders from standardized testing requirements. Hooray! More time for reading and art!
The State Historical Society currently controls a 98-acre tract of land on the banks of the Missouri west of Onida. HB 1014 puts that land up for sale. Developers, boaters, hunters, start your bidding!
Currently, when courts determine that abused or neglected kids should be placed permanently with someone other than their parents, the courts can order adoption, guardianship, placement with another fit and willing relative, or an alternative planned permanent living arrangement. HB 1022 would restrict the latter catch-all alternative to children age 16 or older.
HB 1027 puts “feet” alongside “hands” and “devices” to the items one can use to provide “therapy, relaxation, or education” under the statutory definition of “massage” (see SDCL 36-35-1). Look out, all you unlicensed backwalking parlors! The State Board of Massage Therapy is onto you! HB 1027 also adds “vibration” to the “Pressure, friction, stroking, rocking, kneading, percussion, compression, or stretching” that hands, devices, and now feet may do to count as licensable massage.
We don’t do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees at our postsecondary vo-tech schools unless they also work in elementary or secondary schools. SB 8 says we ought to check ’em all.
But many of those states are changing their policies in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision. That’s the case in North Dakota, where the law allows single people to adopt but specifies that adopting couples must be “husband and wife.”
“It’s simple,” said Julie Hoffman, adoptions administrator for the state Department of Human Services. “Now that gay couples are allowed to marry, they’ll be treated like any other married couple who’s adopting.”
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota also are changing their practices to allow married gay couples to go through the adoption process together. Some of them said they’re starting to update their forms to make them gender neutral [Rebecca Beitsch, “Many States Still Prohibit Gay Adoption,” Governing, 2015.08.19].
No person may place a child in a home for adoption until a home study has been completed by a licensed child placement agency as defined in § 26-6-14, the Department of Social Services, or a certified social worker eligible to engage in private independent practice as defined in § 36-26-17. Any person who submitted home studies under this section or under § 26-4-15 prior to July 1, 1990, may continue to submit home study reports without meeting the above requirements. A home study shall include a fingerprint based criminal record check completed by the Division of Criminal Investigation and a central registry screening completed by the Department of Social Services. In addition, no child who is in the custody of the Department of Social Services may be placed in a home for adoption until a fingerprint based criminal record check has been completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for each adopting parent. Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor [South Dakota Codified Law 25-6-9.1].
A Department of Social Services official assigned to do a home study could blackball a gay couple for defying God’s will. Another DSS official could delay the central registry screening or “lose the paperwork.” A DCI agent could refuse to process the fingerprints. I assume that Attorney General Jackley would give those officials the same leeway to shirk their duties for religious reasons that he wants to give county officials who balk at issuing marriage licenses to Adam and Steve.
Obergefell v. Hodgesdid not resolve all of the questions gay couples face in adopting and raising children. One of the plaintiff couples in this year’s landmark Supreme Court decision brought their suit based on Michigan’s refusal to recognize their legal marriage as a basis for adopting children, but Obergefell only gave their marriage legal status; it did not directly address whether states can restrict homosexual couples from adopting children. Married couples don’t automatically get to adopt children; they still have to clear reasonable hurdles raised by the state to check their fitness to parent. If a DSS official or DCI agent decides a South Dakota couple is unfit to parent because the parents are both dudes and Jesus doesn’t dig that, we’ll have another court case on our hands.