Monday, February 15, 2016

SD HB 1107

SB HB 1107 is also extremely discriminatory and is a distortion of US principles of disestablishment and religious freedom. I've included the text of the My Voices column from the Argus Leader. Please write to your SD State Senator and Governor Daugaard urging them to oppose this law!

My Voice: Say “no” to HB 1107: Protect 14th Amendment

As outlined in House Bill 1107, the lawmakers of the state of South Dakota want to permit public employees, public agencies and recipients of public monies, the right to discriminate on the basis of personal religious conviction against LGBTQ individuals, unwed parents, or individuals who engage in sex outside of marriage. This bill passed the South Dakota House and is currently being considered by the Senate. We must urge our South Dakota State Senators and Gov. Dennis Daugaard to oppose this bill.

S.D.’s HB 1107 is a flagrant violation of the 14th Amendment of our Constitution, which protects the civil rights of all citizens. HB 1107 would elevate the conscience of some above the civil rights of others. It suggests that this particular aspect of identity, faith, supersedes other aspects of our identities and can be used as a principle according to which we can discriminate against our fellow South Dakotans, based on gender and sexual identity, marital status, and family structure.

Consider how this law might affect citizens who seek public safety and medical assistance, marriage licenses, or public education. How might this law affect my ability as an educator at a public institution to pursue our vision of “inclusive excellence,” to fight for inclusiveness and against discrimination? How can I encourage my students to view diversity as a “tremendous benefit” to their educations and to pursue “equity and social justice” in their lives if our state law gives people with a particular faith, special privileges above anyone else in the state — namely the right to discriminate? According to this bill, police or emergency medical technicians could turn down requests for aid from gay or transgender individuals, single mothers, or unmarried co-habitating couples. It effectively allows S.D. Social Services to refuse aid on an ad hoc basis, based on religious convictions of employees. It means hospitals could turn away patients, or children could be barred from child care facilities. What about use of public facilities like parks and recreation areas? It means that some individuals could legally object to other citizens’ use of those spaces.

S.D.’s HB 1107 declares that some individuals, by virtue of matters of conscience, should be able to deny rights and privileges guaranteed to other citizens. This is more than an accommodation of religion. It effectively elevates the religious convictions of some and imposes them through law. We are an incredibly diverse and dynamic nation that has struggled to realize one of the most cherished principles of civil democracy, that the state as an entity distinct from religion should seek to protect the civil rights of all, including our individual rights of conscience and worship. This is a moment in which, while reflecting how much our nation has changed in 250 years, we can look to our founding principles for guidance. I want to live in a nation in which matters of conscience shared by some, do not disrupt the ability of others to enjoy the benefits of our civil society.

We must urge our lawmakers to vote against HB 1107. It does not stand for who we are as South Dakotans, or who we are as Americans.

SD HB 1008

There are a series of extremely discriminatory laws that have passed the SD House of Representatives and are now up for a vote in the SD Senate. Here is a fantastic editorial from Vermillion Equalizer's managing editor David Lias about HB 1008: Between the lines: Hello, Jim Crow; Welcome to South Dakota.  

My colleague and friend Mandie Weinandt composed a sample letter to send to your SD State Senator and to Governor Daugaard, who signs all bills passed by the SD State Legislature into law. I've included it below. Please send an email ASAP! 

Who are My Legislators
Contact Govr. Daugaard

Sample letter: 
Dear Senator/ Governor <insert name>,

My name is <insert name> and I am <insert title and affiliation> from <insert town>. I am also a/an <insert relationship> to the LGBTQQIA community.

I am writing to urge you to oppose HB 1008. I am opposed to HB 1008 for a number of reasons.  First, this bill targets transgender students for systemic discrimination.  Forcing transgender students to out themselves and seek "reasonable accommodation" through official and public means is akin to painting a target on their backs.  It also sets a precedent, backed by state government that it is acceptable to single out or target individual students for not fitting a hypothetical norm as dictated by the state.  I would not want the state to dictate which elements of my being I have the right to own and which I do not; therefore, I would not want this for others.  That this bill has been sold as a "protective measure" to ensure the safety of K-12 students is an unacceptable lie to convince individuals that systemic discrimination and persecution are an acceptable means to an end.  The falsely touted negative repercussions of not passing this bill are already illegal making this bill solely to treat those the state deems unworthy differently from those the state deems socially acceptable.  

While I feel this bill should be rejected for the reasons of treating people with respect and not discriminating against a segment of our population, I would also like to point out the obvious legal and financial repercussions of passing HB 1008.  As with many bills initiated in our state legislature which target members of the LGBTQQIA community, passing HB 1008 will result in costly legal battles and nation-wide negative publicity.  Transgender students are protected by Title IX legislation and the national DOE has vowed to protect their rights.  Do we really want to put South Dakota's head on the proverbial chopping block by outing ourselves as a state who would go against federal regulation so we can discriminate against K-12 transgender students?  I hope this is not the case.

Member of the transgender community are active citizens and contributors to our state and communities.  To be accepted for who they are and not have to face constant persecution is a hope transgender persons face every day.  These brave souls have no malicious intent and no hidden agenda.  Their only hope is to live a full life as who they truly are without having to hide, lie, or be treated as though they do not have rights.

I am asking you to please oppose for HB 1008.

<your name>