SB128 Sparks LGBT Rally.
A bill before the state legislature is sparking backlash from those who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community.
Senate Bill 128 seeks to allow business owners to refuse service to L.G.B.T. individuals without fear of a lawsuit. Proponents say it’s a freedom of speech issue to protect the rights of business owners allowing them to act in accordance with their faith. Those against the measure call it blatant unconstitutional discrimination.
SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray reports that a new Facebook page launched in the wake of SB 128 is aimed at marriage equality in South Dakota. The page now has nearly 900 followers.
Those who oppose Senate Bill 128 say the bill is discriminatory. David Patton is president of the Black Hills Center for Equality. He says the backlash against the bill is a renewed movement in South Dakota to recognize the rights of L.G.B.T. individuals. Patton says a rally in favor of civil rights for L.G.B.T. individuals is planned for February 17th in Downtown Rapid City.
“So this protest that’s happening, this rally that’s happening is literally a spontaneous uprising with what’s happening in Pierre. With what those few people are doing to our state,” says Patton.
Patton says the introduction of Senate Bill 128 gives South Dakota a bad name. Joseph Geyer is the president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Black Hills State University. He launched a Facebook page called “South Dakota for Marriage Equality” that is quickly gaining followers.
“Growing up here and being gay not very often are you told you’re terrible for it but you’re still being told you’re not good enough to get married. So, I don’t want other kids to grow up that way,” says Geyer.
Republican State Senator Phil Jensen from the Rapid City area is a prime sponsor of the bill. Jensen says this measure is not about discrimination, rather he says it’s about religious freedom.
“The intent is to provide some protection for businesses and individuals regarding free speech. Some are claiming it’s unconstitutional. Some says it’s a form of bigotry when in reality it’s an anti-bullying bill and it’s a free speech bill,” says Jensen
The bill is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but a hearing date has not been set.