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SB 124 Allows Public Workers to Invoke Religion to Discriminate Against Constituents

Republicans cloaked another attack on equality in the language of religious liberty with Senate Bill 124. The bill carves out room for religious zealots to exercise their bigotry in public office, potentially refusing to serve citizens whom they deem sinners in the eyes of their angry god, and prohibits municipal governments from enacting more stringent protections from religious bigotry.

Darn near everyone in the Legislature (except for three attentive Democrats in the House) voted for this religious discrimination bill. The Human Rights Campaign explains that, like much else of our Legislature’s bigotry, SB 124 is part of a nationwide drive toward theocracy by Pence-ive Republicans:

On Wednesday evening, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 124, a religious refusal bill that could grant a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people across a wide range of goods and services in South Dakota. In 2015, then-Governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed a similar piece of legislation into law that encouraged widespread discrimination from medical providers, child welfare providers, businesses, government officials and taxpayer-funded entities. Mississippi also passed a RFRA in 2016. As reported by The 19th, this is among 36 anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” measures coursing through state legislatures as part of a national flood of anti-LGBTQ legislation and an effort by national, far-right extremist groups to sow fear and division for political gain. This represents one of two anti-LGBTQ bills signed into law in the 2021 session, along with HB 2536 in Mississippi, an anti-transgender sports ban bill [Wyatt Ronan, “South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Signs Religious Refusal Bill, Creating First Major RFRA Law in Six Years,” Human Rights Campaign, 2021.03.13].

Add SB 124 to our transgender athlete ban, and South Dakota could face some severe economic repercussions. HRC claims Indiana lost big money for its discriminatory action:

The backlash from the business community and voters was swift, and Pence soon became a national disgrace. Pence’s discriminatory bill had enormous consequences for Indiana’s economy and reputation. Indianapolis’s non-profit tourism agency estimated that in their city alone, Pence’s anti-LGBTQ bill cost up to 12 conventions and $60 million in lost revenue.

The State of Indiana had to spend $365k of taxpayer money on a PR firm to help dampen the backlash and attempt to restore the reputation of Indiana.

A report by the Associated Press detailed that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere” [Ronan, 2021.03.13].

You can only hold so many rodeos and fireworks shows, Kristi. Imagine how diverse and vibrant our economy would be if we welcomed everyone in our state….


  1. Eve Fisher 2021-03-15 09:00

    Perhaps someday South Dakotans will learn that LGBQT people are actual, live human beings with the same civil rights as themselves. Then again, maybe pigs will fly.

  2. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-15 09:50

    Big picture- pigs don’t act like this! Allowing a pig with a collar or a government suit to deny service?

    So 3 Democrats voted against this in the house. That means 5 Democrats voted for this fascistic thuggery!
    So 62.5% of all House Democrats voted for this discriminatory Piece of law?

    How can the Democrats , more than half of them Vote FOR this discrimatory Rubbish?

    For technical reasons or bi partisan reasons?

    This is WHY Democrats have lost every Governors election since 1978, like Clockwork! They vote the SAME as Republicans!!! That’s why. Half the Democrats smell and vote like Republicans.

    I’m glad 3 Democrats had the courage to try to kill this awful bill. But 5 of the D s are just Craven Republican lites, 5 more Confederate reasons why Dems will probably lose 2022 also.

    Solution might be 3rd Party, guy or gal with a lot of Cash, very high digital organizing capabilities with good connections in Georgia and Arizona too, who will just say Democrats don’t deliver and Republicans take away your rights.

    A really sad day for Democrats.

  3. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-15 10:20

    When I look on the votes for SB 124 in the House, I only see 2 Nays total! Jennifer Keintz, 1- Aberdeen does not seem to be listed.

    Here it is

    Bordeaux 26A. Nay
    Cwach 18. Yes
    Duba 15. Yes
    Healy 14. Nay
    J. Keintz. Nay. District 1
    Lesmeister 28A. Yes
    Pourier. 27. Excused
    Smith, Jamie 15. Yes

    3 Nay. 4 Yes to Noem . 1 excused.

    Very piss poor for a Party that stands for the little guy. This vote should be on the Front Page of instead of that signature capture garbage.

    Democrats do not stand for the little guy any more.

    Only 3 out of 105 stood up for Democracy! 99 voted for Theocracy, including 4 Democrats! Shameful

  4. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-15 10:23 autocorrect typo
    Keintz did vote Nay.

    Bi partisan vote for theocracy and Discimination.

    3rd Party.

  5. mike from iowa 2021-03-15 10:33

    Religious goons are the biggest discriminators and, therefore, religion should be outlawed forever.

  6. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-15 10:40

    The Senate passed this SD Bigot bill 35-0 !!!

    All 3 Democrats voted Yes on this Bigot Bill!!!!!

    Out of 11 Democrats, only 3 House voted No. One House Democrat excused. 7 Democrats voted Yes on this discriminating law!

    7 out of 11 Democrats voted Yes. Horrible. Democrat Party is too Taliban, too Noem, too Trump.

    I’m going to the courthouse and changing my registration.

    Democratic Party, officially the home of bigots and religious fanatics and theocrats.

    What about Buddhists, Sikhs, Mosley’s, Atheists, agnostics, trans, gay people?

    The bigotry in this state

  7. sx123 2021-03-15 10:41

    Why does religion, something supported with little or no evidence, get such protections? Traditionally I can understand, but why now? Just because I believe in unicorns doesn’t make me right.

  8. o 2021-03-15 13:42

    Let’s just have the legislature put it to a vote and be done: are our LGBTQ members of SD society or not? Are we all people or not? (Hint: “Yes, but . .. ” means NO)

  9. Arlo Blundt 2021-03-15 16:04

    Well…the law does not conform to federal statute and is fundamentally Un-American. Another example of South Dakota becoming an isolated outlier of our democracy. Anti Gay prejudice is not a traditional “South Dakota Value.” We deserve to be boycotted by the rest of the nation.

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-03-15 16:58

    Well Arlo, I’m sure laws like this will attract the best people to South Dakota right? Are you all ready for the Bundys to move to move to Mud Butte or maybe that’s too Mystic for you.

  11. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-16 07:07

    Can we do a Referendum on this Bigot Law?

    We could win 52 to 60% on Referendum to erase this law.

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