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Senate Bill 66 Dies In Committee

The State Senate Judiciary Committee struck down a bill aiming to protect clergy who refuse to perform a marriage of a same sex couple. Proponents say the bill makes a necessary political statement, affirms religious freedoms, and safeguards clergy against future lawsuits. But opponents counter that the bill is unnecessary, redundant, and sends a bad message about South Dakota.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has some highlights from the meeting that included pastors on both sides of the issue.  

Supporters of Senate Bill 66 argue that it’s not about banning gay marriage.  Rather they say the measure protects the religious freedom of a clergy member to turn away a gay couple that wants to be married.  Republican State Representative Steve Hickey, who is a Sioux Falls pastor, spoke in favor of the measure.

 “We’re asking for a little more firewall to keep you know whatever the state approves out there form affecting what we’re doing because of deeply held religious convictions.  It can continue on, the state wants to approve whatever it wants to approve that’s fine.    But we have religious right of conscious.  And so I’m asking… this bill says the state stops at our church,” says Hickey.

But another clergy member spoke against the bill.   Karl Kroger is a pastor in Piedmont.  

“I am here to give you a message that was predominately given to people by the angels and that is do not be afraid.  You all don’t have to be afraid of this.  It’s going to be OK.  We’re not being persecuted.  We have freedom of religion.  As a pastor I will not be forced to violate my conscious and perform a same sex wedding,” says Kroger.  

The bill failed to gain the necessary votes to pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.   It failed by a vote of 4 to 3.