The State Senate Judiciary committee killed Senate Bill 128 Tuesday morning. The bill protects business owners who turn away individuals based on sexual orientation from civil lawsuits. It also protects employers who choose to not hire LGBT individuals.
Those in favor call the measure an effort to protect free speech and freedom of religion. Those opposed call the bill blatant discrimination.
Republican State Senator Phil Jensen from Rapid City is the prime sponsor of SB 128. Jensen says the bill is about protecting the rights of individuals to live by their faith and be free of the threat of a lawsuit.
“As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m commanded to love, to love everyone. That doesn’t mean I must condone the lifestyle choices that someone chooses. The GLBT movement doesn’t just want societies approval. They want their lifestyle choices applauded; they want standing ovations,” says Jensen.
But opponents argued the bill is redundant because, currently, sexual orientation is not a protected class in South Dakota. Opponents went on to argue that LGBT individuals deserve the same civil rights as everyone else. Terry Carlson is with PFLAG, an organization of parents who advocate for their lesbian and gay children.
“When Fred Phelps boycotts the funerals of our military heroes and blames their deaths on 'faggots,' I thought he was an exception. But here I sit before you today. This legislation, if enacted, would make South Dakota no better than the laws of Russia, where people fear for the welfare of their families every day,” says Carlson.
The committee went on to kill the bill by a vote of five to two.