Updated – Apparently my last paragraph dropped off after I posted this. It has been added back on.
Yesterday I posted about SB 66 and SB 67, which are two controversial bills introduced in the South Dakota legislature. Both measure are now dead. I’m not surprised. I don’t think anyone actually expected either measure to be passed.
SB 67 would have protected private businesses from lawsuits if they refused to provide certain services based upon religious objections. The bills sponsor Rep Otten withdrew the bill after being provided legal advice that the bill was redundant. Current law already protects religious reasons for denying service. That is true, but I think this new law would have helped to prevent activists from burdening small business owners with burdensome lawsuits. As I said before, I think it is silly for these businesses to refuse service (especially in the case of gay couples); but religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights should protect such decisions, no matter how silly anyone finds these decisions.
SB 66 died in Committee by sending it to the nonexistent 41st legislative day. This was actually a pretty interesting debate to listen to. Both sides were pretty respectful of each others view and kept the discussion civil. Like SB 66, this bill also is redundant. Current law already protects clergy members from being forced to marry couples they object to. Yet, as many have said on both sides of the debate, legalized gay marriage is coming to South Dakota. The proposed bill would have protected clergy members when that was made to happen via a court decision or initiated ballot measure.
So what should those trying to protect clergy members in performing marriages do? Actually they should take a libertarian approach and work to get government OUT of the marriage business. That is exactly what I said when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA last summer (and rightfully so). Anyone that believes the government is getting too involved in religion should advocate getting the government out of this very personal portion of people’s lives. Marriage should be about a bond and commitment between two people and whatever higher power they believe in. Involving the government in marriage opens it up to being controlled by public policy.
As to the religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights issues that were involved in these bills. I think different legislation should be tried in 2015 that isn’t so tailored towards one subject. I supported these bills because they involved these issues, but thought they were too tailored towards a single topic. In the future a bill needs to be drafted that protects a broader range of religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights when activists try to make examples of small business owners and clergy members.