Adoption Bill May Be Bad For Business

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South Dakota takes a lot of pride in being business-friendly.  However, an out-of-state entrepreneur says the state’s new adoption law goes against that.  He is now spreading the word. 

Randy Horton owns a business in suburban Chicago.  He says South Dakota seemed like an appealing place to grow a business until he Googled it and one of the first things to come up was the new adoption law. 

Supporters say the legislation protects faith-based organizations if they refuse adoptions that conflict with religious beliefs.

Horton says it makes the state appear to discriminate against minority families, including gay parents.

Horton, who owns 94 Westbound Consulting, says the Governor’s Office of Economic Development sent him a packet of information about business opportunities in the state.  He was intrigued, but further research changed his mind for a few reasons.  Horton and his wife adopted a child.  As an adoptive parent and entrepreneur, he does not plan on expanding his business to South Dakota while the law is in place. 

“You can’t have it all.  You can’t choose to have the discrimination and say you’re a pro-business environment,” Horton said.

Horton sent KELOLAND News a copy of the letter he wrote to Governor Dennis Daugaard and talked with us via Skype.  In the letter, he calls the law offensive and business un-friendly.

“If this state feels this is so important that we have to give adoption agencies the ability to turn away African Americans, or Jews, or gays, I guess it’s their call.  It’s not something I agree with,” Horton said.

Representative Steve Haugaard, a sponsor of the bill, says the legislation is not intended to discriminate.  He says it is meant to protect adoption agencies.

“There have been several agencies (across the country) that have shut their doors because of the potential they would have to do things on the contrary to their deeply religious convictions,” Haugaard, (R) Minnehaha Co., said.

The initial bill, Senate Bill 149, describes the legislation as means to, “provide certain protections to faith-based or religious child-placement agencies.”

Even though Horton is sharing his concerns with business colleagues both in and out of state, Haugaard is not afraid of a backlash that could happen.

Brady Mallory: Is this law worth the potential loss of new business, big events and money coming into South Dakota?
Haugaard: If you lead by principles, you’ll do fine.  If you respond to every tempest in a teapot that comes along, you’ll never be able to get anything done.

No matter the actual intent, one signature from Daugaard is already stirring up multiple reactions.

“He recognizes these agencies have a long standing tradition of helping people.  It’s vitally important we encourage organizations in the state that have been doing their role for decades,” Haugaard said.

“I hope they repeal the law and publicly say, ‘This was a mistake and we’re sorry and we’re truly a business-friendly state,'” Horton said. 

Daugaard’s spokesperson declined a request for an interview, saying the governor was traveling on Friday and unavailable. 

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