On Sunday I posted a petition from the South Dakota Democratic Party in opposition to a bill that would legalize anti-gay discrimination on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Yesterday the Associated Press spoke with the bill’s author, who has introduced a second bill that outlaws forcing ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. (Which has never happened anywhere in the history of everything.)
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. Otten said the measures are not intended to hurt gay people, but he believes gay-rights activists are going too far in suing people who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or to provide services for such weddings. “It’s unconscionable that somebody from the outside would come in and bring a family business to ruin over activism,” Otten said.
The lead House sponsor of Otten’s bills provides our WTF of the day: “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. If we want to talk about church and state, this is a bill that keeps the state out of my church.” South Dakota is one of 29 states that do not include sexual orientation in its public accommodation laws.