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SB 128's intent was correct, focus too broad

by Greg Belfrage

I've spent a lot of time these past few weeks reflecting on SB 128. The bill would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gays and homosexuals.

The bill was brought forward by lawmakers wishing to protect business owners from lawsuits and discrimination charges if they refuse service based on their religious beliefs.

The bill was killed because sexual preference is not a protected class in South Dakota. Therefore, gays and lesbians don't have legal standing to sue businesses for refusing to serve them.

As I've noted previously, there was a lot of animosity fired at the sponsors of SB 128. Opponents said the bill was reminiscent of "Jim Crow" and painted sponsors and supporters as "hateful". 

That kind of demeaning rhetoric is typical of the Left, but such comments were also coming from some Republicans. 

Many saw the bill as tool to deny service to homosexuals at pharmacies, restaurants and every other business. Opponents were correct that such action would have been allowed under the bill. However, that was never the intent of the legislation.

In retrospect, I believe the bill's broad focus was a big part of it's problem.

In the "denial of service" cases I mentioned above, every case revolved around gay marriage ceremonies. These were not businesses refusing to serve every homosexual that walked through the door. 

In fact, some of these owners had done business with the homosexual couples in the past. They simply refused to participate in gay wedding ceremonies, which they said violated their religious beliefs. Bakers and photographers didn't wish to be forced into participating in same sex wedding ceremonies. 

Can you really blame them? Owners shouldn't be forced to check their religion and values at the door when they open for business. Christians are taught to incorporate their values into every aspect of life, not to turn a blind eye to sinful behavior. It is a fundamental teaching of the Christian church.

If SB 128 had been written very specifically to safeguard religious business owners from unwilling cooperation in same sex marriage ceremonies... perhaps sponsors wouldn't have been demonized so badly.

The debate illustrated just how far Americans have moved on the issue of homosexuality, as well as how many self-professed Christians have joined the Church of Political Correctness.

Previous blogs on SB 128:
Senators blast those fighting to preserve religious liberty  
An open letter to Rep. Anne Hajek on SB128  

Greg Belfrage (@belfrageshow) is heard mornings 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.