- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota legislative panel on Wednesday approved a bill that would protect religious adoption agencies or foster groups that won’t work with same-sex couples and single parents.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill 5-2 despite state and federal standards that bar agencies receiving state funds from denying prospective parents based on religion, sexual orientation, marital status, race or gender. The bill now moves to the full Senate.

Six organizations currently receive state funds that force them to comply with those state and federal requirements.

The bill’s supporters say the agencies shouldn’t have to abandon their “sincerely held” religious views, and that the measure would allow the groups to only place children with traditional families whose views align with their own, the Argus Leader reported (https://argusne.ws/2kTDhqU) reported.

Republican Sen. Alan Solano, of Rapid City, said other states hold back state funding and licenses if faith-based groups refuse to work with certain prospective parents. The bill would protect agencies from that situation in South Dakota.

Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said it’s the duty of placement agencies to put the needs of abused or neglected children first. If religious groups are able to put their moral beliefs first and deny LGBTQ couples and single people, it could open the state up to legal battles, she said. Skarin also said the bill could limit the pool of prospective foster parents in South Dakota.

“Freedom of religion is not a license to deny these kids loving parents,” said Billy Mawhiney, a gay foster father from Sioux Falls.


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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