WASHINGTON – South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard made South Dakota the first state this year to enact anti-LGBT legislation following the signing of S.B. 149 today, which permits taxpayer-funded agencies to deny services to LGBT people, authorizing discrimination through the use of religious exemptions. With today’s signing of S.B. 149, the legislation becomes the first this year in a series of anti-LGBT bills advancing in state legislatures across the country.
“Today’s signing of S.B. 149 is deeply troubling not only because it opens the door to widespread discrimination against LGBT people and children in South Dakota, but because it’s only one of many bills moving through state legislatures across the country that authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT Americans,” said James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBT Project. “These laws run contrary to one of our core American values: the rule of law, which means we are all held to and protected by the same laws. These exemptions encourage people to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow based on their religious beliefs.”
While South Dakota becomes the first state in 2017 to enact anti-LGBT legislation into law, other state legislatures across the country are aggressively pursuing similar measures, including Texas (S.B. 892 and H.B. 1805), Oklahoma (H.B. 1507), and Alabama (S.B. 145), among others.
“South Dakota just enacted the first anti-LGBT legislation of 2017, shamefully targeting LGBT parents and vulnerable kids,” said Laura E. Durso, vicepresident of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “S.B. 149 allows religiously-affiliated foster care and adoption agencies to turn away qualified LGBT parents and single moms who simply want to start families and give young people a safe, loving home. Same-sex couples are six times as likely to foster than different-sex couples are, and this bill proves once again that opponents of equality are happy to put children at risk and deny them permanent homes to further their anti-LGBT agenda."
Local and national child welfare experts sent letters opposing S.B. 149, including The Adoption Exchange, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of Social Workers, and Voice for Adoption. This was in addition to family law experts including South Dakota pediatricians, and local and national LGBT rights organizations including the Movement Advancement Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and more.
“We’re deeply disappointed by Governor Daugaard’s decision to green light Senate Bill 149,” said Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “This discriminatory legislation takes South Dakota in the wrong direction, and sends the message that our leaders are more concerned with the desires of religious agencies than the rights of individuals and children in our state.”