South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed a piece of legislation into law that restricts the rights of LGBT people and others to adopt.
The law is cast as a measure designed to “protect the rights” of adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs, but the “religious beliefs” that are protected by the measure are those that call for discrimination against LGBT people. It’s similar in nature to something that Vice President Mike Pence signed into law while he served as Governor of Indiana: the “Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act” which protects the “right” of business owners to refuse to serve people whose lifestyles and identities don’t align with owners’ religious beliefs.
Now, with the man responsible for that abhorrent attack on the rights of LGBT people in the second highest position of power in the United States, bigots around the country feel empowered. Pence’s “Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act” literally enshrines social practices the define the period of U.S. history that saw countless African Americans lynched or otherwise murdered across the country, and yet, thanks to Trump voters, the kinds of practices that allowed for those murders to take place are making a comeback.
South Dakota’s new law has immediately drawn the ire of a number of major organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU. Mind you, these organizations aren’t nobodies — the ACLU, for instance, has already brought a successful lawsuit against the Trump administration in just the first couple months he’s been in office. With the massive influx of support that the ACLU has received lately, they’re not about to just let this one fly and ignore what the South Dakota governor has just done.
ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth A. Skarin said:
‘Governor Daugaard’s decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law is deeply disappointing. Loving, qualified families should not be turned away from adopting a needy child simply because they are LGBT, of a different faith than the agency, or divorced. Even worse, this law directly affects the hundreds of children in South Dakota awaiting their forever families — and those children deserve better from our state leaders.’
As Skarin’s statement mentions, it’s not only LGBT people who are targeted by this new law, rather, it’s anyone who could find themselves at odds with the religious beliefs of any one of South Dakota’s state funded adoption agencies. That includes people who are, as mentioned, not Christian, and it includes people who are divorced.
HRC’s Legal Director Sarah Warbelow commented similarly to the ACLU’s Skarin, saying:
‘Governor Daugaard’s action not only puts the best interests of the more than a thousand vulnerable children served by South Dakota’s foster care system at risk, it signals the potential of a dark new reality for the fight for LGBTQ rights.’
Indeed, the passage of this law helps reveal that the Trump administration has emboldened some of the most backward, bigoted parts of American society, and people concerned about this must stay vigilant.
The law also allows adoption agencies to refuse sexual identity related medical and mental health care to LGBT children and teenagers in the state’s foster care system.
Featured Image via Bilgin S. Sasmaz/ Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.