PIERRE, S.D. — The governor of South Dakota has signed a bill protecting the rights of faith-based adoption agencies to decline to place children with homosexuals.
While the legislation does not specifically mention homosexuality, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said that he was concerned that “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.”
“The state may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child-placement agency or an organization seeking to become a child-placement agency on the basis, wholly or partly, that the child-placement agency has declined or will decline to provide any service that conflicts with, or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the child-placement agency,” S.B. 149 reads in part.
Daugaard, who formerly served as the director of the Children’s Home Society, told reporters he wanted to ensure that placement agencies aren’t punished or forced to close because they run their organization in accordance with the tenets of their faith.
“I’m worried that a child placement agency may make what is in the best interest of the child a correct decision but be subject to a lawsuit by someone who has a little bit of a leg up by virtue of being in a protective class,” he said. “And if we can forestall that with this legislation then I’m willing to do that.”
Homosexual advocacy groups, such as the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, condemned the law, opining that it legalizes discrimination.
“Governor Daugaard’s decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law is deeply disappointing,” ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth Skarin said in a statement. “Loving, qualified families should not be turned away from adopting a needy child simply because they are LGBT, of a different faith than the agency, or divorced.”
However, supporters of the bill conversely noted that the legislation rather ensures that the state does not discriminate against people of faith. They pointed to cases in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Illinois and California where adoption agencies have been threatened with revocation of their license or the denial of a contract.
“The law would ensure that the State of South Dakota may not coerce [faith-based agencies] to abandon their sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions in their placement decisions, and the ongoing need for placement of children in safe nurturing homes will be served,” the South Dakota Family Policy Council (SDFPC) said in a statement.
“These faith-based adoption agencies do not currently receive any state funds for child placement services, but without this protection, they are faced with a possible decision of closing their doors or failing their mission,” it continued. “While this has already occurred in other states, it should never happen here in South Dakota.”
Michigan, North Dakota and Virginia already have protective measures in place, and Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma are considering passing similar laws.