By Cervante Pope
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed 37 new bills into law at the beginning of March, one of them blatantly targeting LGBT couples and the children that could potentially call them parents.
The Republican dominated legislature fully supported Daugaard’s signing of Senate Bill 149, permitting faith-based and taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny LBGT couples adoption services. Leading a series of anti-LBGT bills to come into effect across the country through 2017, SB 149 essentially legalizes discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation.
“Today’s signing of Senate Bill 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, in a statement on March 10, the day the bill was signed.
Numerous adoption and child placement agencies are religiously based, often Christian or Catholic. The South Dakota bill does not specifically focus on organizations with religious affiliations, meaning that any organization can deny a couple placement on merit of orientation.
Prior to signing the bill, Gov. Daugaard expressed concern about private agencies being subjected to lawsuits for denying placement to persons in a “protected class,” like he considers those in the LGBT community to be, according to the Associated Press. He claims his hopes lie in this bill preventing this.
“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,” said Laura Durso, the vice president of LGBT research and communications at the Center for American Progress, in a statement. “SB 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.”
The ramifications of SB 149 are still new, but similar bills directly targeting the LGBT community are being pursued in Texas (SB 892 and HB 1805), Alabama (SB 145) and Oklahoma (HB 1507), among others.