Press "Enter" to skip to content

Can Online Petitioners Turn SB 149 Protest into Real Repeal Drive?

South Dakota took the first full legislative swing of 2017 at homosexuals, atheists, gun owners, folks who sleep in on Sunday morning, and other sinners with passage of Senate Bill 149, the “if you don’t go to our church, you’re a bad parent” discrimination-in-adoption bill.

As a parent who could be deemed unworthy by the religious beliefs of most licensed child placement agencies in South Dakota, I find SB 149 particularly odious. I was thus thrilled to see the KELO-TV headline, “Woman Starts Petition to Repeal Adoption Bill.”

But she’s not, really:

[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 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 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).

If you really want to repeal this unnecessary and spiteful law, here’s how:

  1. Keep collecting names and addresses via
  2. Prepare a referendum petition according to this format.
  3. 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).
  4. Get the petition and handout approved by the Secretary of State.
  5. 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.
  6. On Monday, March 27, after the Legislature adjourns, tell every one of those circulators to walk down the street and get 20 signatures from South Dakota registered voters.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 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.


  1. mike from iowa 2017-03-14 08:50

    The Inquisitors in Pierre are betting a racist US Attorney General will not find any of these despicable actions unconstitutional.

  2. Jill B. 2017-04-01 07:53

    This bill is the primary reason my husbamd and I won’t be traveling to the Black Hills this summer/fall.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-04-01 10:06

    That’s a shame, Jill B. We South Dakotans are all glad to have your money, and some of us really do enjoy sharing the wonders of our state (not to mention a nice conversation) with visitors and new friends. Some of us will keep working to earn your visit!

  4. jill b. 2017-04-01 19:06

    Thanks! I’ll be watching to see if the bill gets repealed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.