Measure Allows Adoption Agencies To Turn Away Same-Sex Couples Based On Religious Beliefs
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South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Friday signed a "religious freedom" adoption bill, making the state the first to enact anti-LGBT legislation in 2017.
The bill allows taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse services to LGBT people — such as by declining to place children with same-sex couples — if it would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. Senate Bill 149 also opens the door to religious-based discrimination against single parents, interracial couples, non-Christians and others.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group, reported this week that it is now tracking more than 100 anti-LGBT bills in state legislatures this year.
“This is the first anti-LGBTQ bill that any state has signed into law this session," HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement Friday. "Governor Daugaard’s action not only puts the best interests of the more than a thousand vulnerable children served by South Dakota's foster care system at risk, it signals the potential of a dark new reality for the fight for LGBTQ rights.”
The ACLU of South Dakota said it is already exploring legal challenges to SB 149, encouraging families and children who are negatively affected by the law to come forward. The group also alluded to potential economic backlash.
"In a state facing a labor and talent shortage, this bill has sparked national interest and local questions as to whether South Dakota welcomes diversity and values the rights of individual citizens," the ACLU said.
According to the Associated Press, Daugaard said before signing the bill that he was "concerned private child-placement agencies acting in the best interest of a child could be subject to a lawsuit when denying placement to someone in a "protected class," such as members of the LGBT community."
Last year, Daugaard vetoed an anti-trans bathroom bill after meeting with children who would have been affected, saying they “put a human face” on the issue and helped him see it “through their eyes.”