South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has affixed his signature to a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse placing children with same-sex couples.
Senate Bill 149, signed by the governor last Friday, grants a religious exemption to taxpayer-funded adoption and foster-care agencies, which allows them to deny child placement to unmarried or same-sex couples based on religious objections.
"I'm worried that a child placement agency may make what is in the best interest of the child a correct decision but be subject to a lawsuit by someone who has a little bit of a leg up by virtue of being in a protective class," said Daugaard, as reported by Life Site News. "And if we can forestall that with this legislation then I'm willing to do that," he added.
Adoption agencies in Massachusetts, California, Illinois and Washington D.C. have voluntarily shut down after the states enacted laws that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sen. Alan Solano (R-District 32), the sponsor of the bill, said he wanted to prevent the same thing from happening in South Dakota.
According to a report from Church Militant, the law would protect faith-based adoption and foster care agencies from adverse state actions including loss of state funding, loss of tax-exemptions, imposition of fines, revoked licenses and cancellation of contracts.
Laura Durso, vice president of LGBT research and communications at the Center for American Progress, said that the legislation is "shamefully targeting LGBT parents and vulnerable kids."
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) expressed its concern that the law would be used to discriminate against interracial couples and also allow "state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth in their care."
The South Dakota Family Policy Council (SDFPC) explained that faith-based adoption agencies currently do not receive state funds for child placement services. The organization contended that the law would protect the adoption agencies from being forced to choose between closing or abandoning their religious belief.
James Kinyon, executive director of Catholic Social Services in Rapid City, said that the legislation "allows us to do what we can for the common good" without the fear of being punished by the government.
Similar laws have been passed in Michigan, North Dakota and Virginia. Lawmakers in Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma are also considering similar bills this year.