Lawmakers kill sexual orientation bill - KOTA Territory News

Lawmakers kill sexual orientation bill

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by Jack Siebold, MyTown Editor

Calling it a "Mean, nasty, vindictive bill," Senator Mark Kirkeby joined four other committee members in killing Senate Bill 128, an attempt to protect people and business owners from lawsuits due to their views on sexual orientation.

Besides protecting a person who expresses opinions on sexual orientation, Senate Bill 128 would have protected business owners who (because of their religious beliefs) refuse to serve a person or couple based on sexual orientation. 

For about an hour Tuesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill sponsored by Senator Phil Jensen (R-District 33).  Jensen told the committee that the bill was necessary to protect South Dakotans and their businesses.  "I hold that free speech is an extension of freedom of religion.  And we must protect it," Jensen said.

Tom Barnett of the South Dakota Bar Association took a different view in testifying before the committee.  He pointed out that sections of the bill were unconstitutional, that the Legislature can't tell the courts what to do; just as the courts can't dictate to the lawmakers.  He ended his testimony with this strong statement:  "I say that Senate Bill 128 wraps itself in a blanket of the stars and stripes and lays its head on a pillow of the Constitution but sleeps in a bed of hypocrisy and constitutional misinformation."

In rebuttal, Jensen added:  "We all have seen the signs ‘No shoes, no shirts, no service.'  Businesses have rights also."

But in the end, the committee decided that business sign shouldn't have the addition "No gays," deferring the bill to the 41st legislative day on a 5-2 vote.

A similar bill, House Bill 1251, will be in the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday morning.

Two previous bills along the same line sponsored by Senator Ernie Otten are also gone; one killed in committee, the other pulled by Otten.

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