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South Dakota passes “religious freedom” bill that could legalize discrimination

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Gov. Kristi Noem Photo: Matt AJ/via Wikipedia South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) announced on March 10 that she signed S.B. 124 into law, which seeks to “provide protections for the exercise of religious freedom,” she stated.

The law is similar to other “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” laws, such as the one adopted in Indiana and signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2015, before it was eventually revised. Its broad implications could allow for anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) warn.

S.B. 124 was introduced in January by state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R). It adds a general provision to the state constitution calling for the state and its employees to not “substantially burden” anyone’s religious exercise or behavior.

“This bill represents a dangerous attempt to enshrine discrimination into state law by creating a legal mechanism to privilege some religious beliefs over the well being of all South Dakotans,” a letter written by HRC’s Sarah Warbelow to the state senate read. The national organization denounced the bill as “a broad sweeping religious refusal bill” and counts it towards the dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills from state legislatures this year.

Schoenbeck said in reaction to the Human Rights […]

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