South Dakota adoption agencies can now discriminate against LGBT couples
South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard has made it possible for tax payer-funded adoption agencies to deny services to prospective lesbian and gay parents. He signed a bill, known as SB 149, which specifically states that religious-based adoption agencies can turn away people who behave in a way that conflicts with their sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.
The bill was framed by lawmakers as a protection of religious rights, stating that the state can’t do anything against an adoption agency that has declined or will decline service that goes against their written sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction. SB 149 makes it clear that adoption agencies can’t discriminate against people based on race, ethnicity, or national origin — with no mention of sexual orientation.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement to SELF that she’s concerned that children who are waiting to be adopted will ultimately suffer.
“These children could now wait longer to be placed in a safe, loving home at the whim of an state-funded adoption or foster care agency with a vendetta against LGBTQ couples, mixed-faith couples or interracial couples—all while being taxpayer-funded,” she said.
Not only that, she points out that LGBTQ children in South Dakota’s foster care system are at risk of staying in a system that doesn’t recognize their identity and actively works against the child’s well-being by refusing to give them appropriate medical and mental health care.
“There is a never a legitimate reason to allow an adoption agency to focus on anything other than the best interests of a particular child, and on finding the best available home for that child,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, tells SELF.
This is one of many similar bills that are advancing in state legislatures across the country, including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
There are currently more than 100 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 29 states, Stephen Peters, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, tells SELF. Some bills allow discrimination during adoption while others focus on healthcare, employment, and housing. “The danger is very real as these are blatant attacks on fairness and equality for LGBTQ people by activists who are feeling emboldened around the country,” Peters says.