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S.D. Senate committee kills bill to allow discrimination against gays

Similar bills pending in Ariz., Tenn., but blocked in Kansas, Idaho
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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Update: 11:25 a.m. CST

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 5-2 to kill the bill after opponents said it would have no practical effect but would be seen as mean and hateful.


PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers are considering a measure that seeks to protect businesses against lawsuits if they refuse to serve or hire a person because of their sexual orientation.

South Dakota capitol in Pierre.

South Dakota capitol in Pierre.

Under the bill (SB 128), “No person or entity may bring suit against a business for refusing to serve a person or couple based on sexual orientation. The Legislature finds that businesses are private and that their views on sexual orientation are protected to the same extent as the views of private citizens.”

The bill also states that “no private business may be compelled to employ a person based on sexual orientation.”

If passed, the bill would put the South Dakota Legislature on record as finding that expressing the viewpoint that any specific sexual orientation is wrong or a sin is free speech protected by the First Amendment. However, it says speech intended to incite or threaten violence is not allowed.

The measure says a judge must dismiss any lawsuit dealing with freedom of speech or hiring based on sexual orientation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday.

The South Dakota measure is similar to bills pending in Arizona and Tennessee, that would allow discrimination against gays based on religious beliefs.

In Kansas, a bill to allow discrimination against gays sailed through the state House last week, but so far has been blocked in the Senate.

In Idaho, the state House also put the brakes on a bill there.

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