South Dakota Sends Religious Refusal Bill to Gov. Noem, First Major RFRA Threat In 6 Years

by Wyatt Ronan

Last night, the South Dakota Senate passed Senate Bill 124, a religious refusal bill that would grant a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people across a wide range of goods and services. The bill now heads to Governor Kristi Noem’s desk for signature or veto. In 2015, then-Governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed a similar piece of legislation into law that encouraged widespread discrimination from medical providers, child welfare providers, businesses, government officials and taxpayer-funded entities. Mississippi also passed a RFRA in 2016. As reported by The 19th, this bill is among 36 anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” measures coursing through state legislatures as part of a national flood of anti-LGBTQ legislation as part of an effort by national, far-right extremist groups to sow fear and division for political gain.

South Dakota’s passage of Senate Bill 124 threatens protections for LGBTQ people, women, and people of faith. South Dakotans believe in religious liberty and LGBTQ equality — those two values are not mutually exclusive. South Dakota potentially risks the loss of business opportunities and the revenue that comes with it, significant legal fees, and damage to the state’s reputation. We strongly urge Governor Kristi Noem to reject this dangerous and controversial legislation that would invite a world of problems for South Dakota amidst already difficult circumstances for the state and this country.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

Indiana passed a similar bill which cost them $60m in lost revenue

Voters strongly disapproved of Indiana’s religious refusal law and punished Pence for signing it

  • And polling conducted by HRC after the 2015 fight found that 75 percent of Hoosiers said the law was bad for the state’s economy, and 70 percent of those surveyed said they opposed it.
  • Following the embarrassing fallout, his approval ratings tanked with voters and Pence decided not to run for re-election. Yet, his appalling record on LGBTQ equality won him a place on the ticket with Trump as his running mate. Now, Pence has been working behind the scenes at the White House to push his own disgraced values onto the national stage.
  • A poll conducted by the Indianapolis tourism department showed that the city was still facing the lingering repercussions of the reputational harm it incurred as a result of the legislation a year later

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