.- While religious adoption agencies have been shut down in various parts of the United States after facing pressure to place children with same-sex couples, they now have a few more legal protections in South Dakota because of a new law.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed S.B. 149 after it passed the House of Representatives by a 43-20 vote and the Senate by 27-8.
The governor said he was concerned that private child placement agencies acting in a child’s best interest could face a lawsuit if South Dakota bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Associated Press reports.
Backers of the law cited the fate of adoption agencies in other states that have faced the revocation of their license to operate, funding cuts, and the denial of contracts under strict anti-discrimination policies and laws.
South Dakota’s Catholic Social Services has been placing children in adoptive homes for 43 years.
Jim Kinyon, executive director of Catholic Social Services, said that the legislation would help ensure that the state does not discriminate against faith-based organizations with sincerely held beliefs.
The bill drew opposition from the American Civil Liberties’ South Dakota affiliate and the LGBT activist group the Human Rights Campaign. The ACLU said it is considering legal challenges. Libby Skarin, policy director of ACLU South Dakota, contended that the governor’s action showed more concern for private agencies than for the needs of children.
Adoption agencies, including Catholic adoption agencies, have shut down because of anti-discrimination laws or funding policies in Washington, D.C., Boston, Illinois and California. The agencies’ policies like placing children only with married husband and wife couples have conflicted with expanding legal requirements to place children with same-sex couples.