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Sexual Orientation Bill Defeated

February 18, 2014, 5:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Sexual Orientation Bill Defeated
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It's a major victory for equality in South Dakota.  A South Dakota legislative panel rejected a measure that sought to protect people from being sued for expressing their religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation. Even though Senate Bill 128 was defeated, opponents says it's work is far from over.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to kill Senate Bill 128 after opponents said it would be seen as mean and hateful.

"We believe discrimination by any other name is still discrimination," Thomas Christiansen of the Center for Equality said.

Christiansen, who works for the Center for Equality in Sioux Falls, says he was afraid the bill might pass in a conservative state like South Dakota.  

"When I heard about the bill, I was angry about it and then kind of thought, 'This is really ridiculous.'  Then my emotions changed like, 'Don't worry too much about it; this is so ridiculous it's not going to pass,'" Christiansen said.

Christiansen, along with other opponents, launched a social media campaign against Senate Bill 128.  The bill also sought to protect businesses against lawsuits if they refused to serve or hire a person based on their sexual orientation.  That, too, was upsetting to Christiansen.

"The thing that really bothers me, me going into a business, a person who's gay, going into a business does not change what the business does, I'm ordering a service that they provide," Christiansen said.

Supporters say Senate Bill 128 would have protected people's First Amendment rights.  Even though it's dead now, another measure -- House Bill 1251 is similar.  

Christiansen hopes the precedent has been set and that, too, will be voted down.

"Even if that gets defeated, we're never going to be done doing our jobs to fight for equality, there's still racism that occurs today," Christiansen said.

House Bill 1251 is set for hearing on Wednesday.

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