South Dakota House Authorizes Discrimination Against LGBT and Unwed Mothers

More of that Sharia for Jesus: A bill passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives would allow discrimination against same-sex couples, unmarried mothers and transgender people without jeopardizing state contracts or employment.

On Monday South Dakota House of Representatives passed yet another extreme measure in the name of religious freedom. By a vote of 46 to 10, the chamber passed HB 1107.

Describing the legislation, the Argus Leader reports:

The measure would prohibit the state from retaliating against people who voice beliefs that marriage should be exclusively between one man and one woman, that sexual intercourse should only occur between married couples and that gender is determined by biological sex at birth.

The measure now moves to the South Dakota Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Craig, said the legislation is about protecting freedom of speech for those with conservative views, noting:

The real victims of intolerance and discrimination in our day are those who conduct their lives according to a belief regarding marriage and human sexuality. Our founding fathers never intended erotic freedom to trump religious freedom.

Rep. Craig’s concern about “erotic freedom” trumping “religious freedom” would be laughable if the consequences of his backward and ignorant views were not so dire.

And the consequences are dire: opponents warn that if approved the legislation would endorse taxpayer-funded discrimination and put the state in violation of federal law.

Concerning the draconian legislation, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said:

Anti-equality lawmakers in the South Dakota House of Representatives are sending a shameful message of intolerance and discrimination in the Mount Rushmore State. With far-reaching implications, HB 1107 would explicitly authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples, transgender South Dakotans, and single mothers. This deplorable attack on basic fairness and equality must be stopped, and we call on the state’s Senators to block both of the anti-LGBT bills passed by the House before they threaten the rights and dignity of the state’s LGBT residents and visitors, and jeopardize South Dakota’s reputation and economic prospects.

Writing for HRC, Stephen Peters observes:

Disguised as an attempt to protect religious beliefs, HB 1107 would authorize any “individual, corporation, company, sole proprietorship, partnership, society, club, organization, or association” to wield religion as a sword of discrimination against same-sex couples, transgender people, and single mothers without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, employment, or other forms of state recognition.  Taxpayer-funded adoption agencies could refuse to act in the best interest of children if it means placing them in the loving and committed homes of LGBT couples. Single mothers could be denied help from taxpayer-funded charities. Therapists who have lost their licences because they practice abusive “conversion therapy” on transgender kids or who shame the child of gay parents would still be recognized as licensed by the state. The reckless consequences could be dangerously far reaching.

To be blunt, Craig and his fellow Republicans give Christians a bad name. Their endorsement of bigotry and intolerance in the name of supposed religious freedom is an indictment of both their character and their intellect.

The fact that Republicans would pass such shameful legislation does a disservice to the good people of South Dakota who want no part of such hatred and bigotry. The legislation will only harm the tourism industry that is so important to the state’s economy, and leave the state wide open to expensive and unwinnable lawsuits.

Bottom line: HB 1107 is a deeply flawed and mean-spirited attempt to allow conservative Christians to discriminate against those people they do not like. As always, when conservatives talk about religious freedom, they usually mean special rights and protections for Christian bigots. The proposed legislation in South Dakota is no exception.

South Dakota (Image via Wikimedia)
South Dakota (Image via Wikipedia)

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