South Dakota considers bill to allow discrimination against LGBT people

South Dakota State Senator Ernie Otten, with lead support from Rep. Steve Hickey, introduced two bills in the South Dakota Legislature attempting to allow clergy, church officials and businesspeople to refuse to take part in the marriages or receptions of loving LGBT couples with the justification that it would protect their religious beliefs. It is important to point out that Rep. Hickey is also the pastor of a Sioux Falls Church.

The South Dakota Constitution and states laws already ban gay marriage, but Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, said he proposed the bills because courts could overturn the ban as they have in other states. Lawsuits in some states have threatened businesses that refused to provide wedding cakes, flowers or other services for same-sex ceremonies, he said. The bills would prevent clergy or businesses from being forced to perform or supply goods or services to anything related to same-sex marriages. It could allow a South Dakota business to refuse to host a reception for a same-sex couple legally married in another state. The bills also say clergy and businesses could not be sued or charged with crimes if they refused to take part in gay marriages.

"Religious rights need to continue to trump gay rights. Otherwise, we're heading down the road of Iran, where it's convert or die, be quiet or die," Hickey said. "If we want to talk about church and state, this is a bill that keeps the state out of my church."

Don Frankenfeld, of Rapid City, a member of Equality South Dakota, said he believes the bill dealing with clergy is irrelevant because the constitutional separation of church and state protects clergy members from being forced to perform any ceremony that runs counter to their beliefs.

The bills introduced in South Dakota only add insult to injury to the many LGBT couples of South Dakota who continue to be denied their right to marry the person they love. has the full story.