This weekend’s Constitutional cluelessness and subtle bigotry comes from Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen). At Saturday’s crackerbarrel, Aberdeen resident Abby McQuillen expressed concern that House Bill 1215 and other Republican culture-war bills could deter people from moving to South Dakota. With his usual sophistry, Novstrup confirmed his ignorance of the Constitution and his bigoted pursuit of cultural cleansing in our fair state.
Rep. Drew Dennert (R-3/Aberdeen) wisely and concisely dismissed HB 1215’s effort to re-delegitimize same-sex marriage as a violation of the 14th Amendment per Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and of South Dakota’s prohibition on multi-subject bills. Rep. Carl Perry (R-3/Aberdeen) affirmed his heterosexuality but said he’s not against guys marrying guys and gals marrying gals and said “we’re all entitled to our personal lives.” Rep. Perry said he voted against the commercial-surrogacy ban to avoid driving surrogate parents out of South Dakota. “We need to do all we can to bring people in and be inclusive.”
But Senator Novstrup bumbled to the mic and confirmed our suspicions that all these dreadful, hateful bills are about urging people who don’t conform to their cultural vision to move away. Naturally, he cloaked his bigotry and cultural isolationism in the Founding Fathers:
When the Founding Fathers set up the United States, they set it up as… a laboratory of democracy, and the whole idea behind it was that different states would have different philosophies and you could migrate to wherever you felt most comfortable.
…A lot of people when they graduate high school will move to Minneapolis and come back when it’s time to raise a family because of the quality of life, because of the hunting, because of the freedom, and possibly because of the political philosophy of low taxes and more freedom.
…I live here, and you’ve all got the freedom—I’m not asking anybody to leave, I’m just telling you the way it’s set up is, if you like what we’re doing, stay; if you don’t, find a place that fits you better. And I don’t mean that in a hostile way; it’s just the way things work. If I thought I could find a better state, I would move there [Senator Al Novstrup, remarks to crackerbarrel, as recorded by Adam St. Paul, Dakota Broadcasting, 2020.02.08, timestamp 01:12:05].
You know, Al, when the Founding Fathers set up the United States, they at first gave the states wide latitude to forge their own paths. That was the Articles of Confederation, and they proved themselves a disaster pretty quickly. When the Founding Fathers set up the United States again in Philadelphia in 1787, they very specifically reined in the scope of state authority to allow a certain level of healthy experimentation at the state level while requiring every state to respect the same basic American rights for every citizen. They established a Bill of Rights that states cannot abrogate and a Supreme Court whose rulings on the scope of those rights states cannot ignore.
The bill Abby asked you about, HB 1215, takes a hostile view of the Supreme Court and the Founders’ intention to establish equal rights across state borders. Your statement, Al, takes a hostile view of the Framers’ intent. When the Framers ordained and established this Constitution in order to form a perfect Union, they did not mean to grant South Dakota or any state permission to ignore the Supreme Court, act like jerks to entire classes of citizens, and expect those oppressed by your jerkiness to seek the full enjoyment of their rights in other states with fewer jerks in elected office. Our more perfect Union ensures that everyone has the same basic rights, no matter what knuckleheads they may elect.
The Republican Party’s venomous slate of absurd culture-war bills seems designed to tell the world that people who don’t conform to Senator Novstrup’s white, straight, pious, crony-capitalist, and conservative paradigm are not welcome in South Dakota. Senator Novstrup’s statement at yesterday’s crackerbarrel lends weight to that reading of the GOP agenda and proves his thick-headed adherence to a destructive insularity that will foil any effort to make South Dakota grow and prosper.