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Marriage Bill Protecting Clergy Fails

January 30, 2014, 6:15 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Marriage Bill Protecting Clergy Fails

South Dakota Senators voted against a bill that would have protected clergy and religious organizations that refuse to participate in or provide services for a same-sex wedding.

Senate Bill 66 failed in a 4-3 vote Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Supporters called the bill a firewall of sorts for those in the religious community who refuse to participate in weddings that violate their religious beliefs.

"This bill does not force or impose any agenda on anyone. What this bill does do however is protect any South Dakotan from anyone trying to impose his views upon them," Sen. Ernie Otten (R) Tea said.

Opponents called the bill unnecessary, saying religious organizations and clergy are already protected under state and federal law.

"Under these rights, no one is forced to do a marriage for any individual on any couple," Sen. Jean Hunhoff (R) Yankton said. “I see this as a political statement.”

Sioux Falls Pastor Kirk Flaa called the bill a blessing.

"In our state we have protections granted and yet all around us these protections are being wittled away," Flaa said.

But Karl Kroger, a pastor in Piedmont, called the bill redundant.

"We're not being persecuted; we have freedom of religion. As a pastor, I will not be forced to violate my conscience," Kroger said.

In the end, a majority on the committee agreed.

Another bill dealing with some similar issues is still alive in the South Dakota legislature.

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