This post was co-authored by Heron Greenesmith, Senior Policy Analyst at the Movement Advancement Project.
On Friday, Governor Daugaard of South Dakota signed Senate Bill 149, which allows taxpayer funded child-welfare agencies to refuse to provide any service, including adoption or foster care services, based on their religious or moral beliefs, instead of advancing what is best for children. In doing so, South Dakota becomes the fourth state to grant child-placement agencies a license to discriminate. The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) has released a new brief examining the South Dakota legislation and the impact it will have on children and families.
These laws are not only discriminatory; they also harm children. In addition to the South Dakota brief, MAP has also released a national policy brief. The brief finds that there are more than 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, with 103,000 awaiting adoption. With too few qualified families, children may spend more time in the child welfare system as a result of these laws. This denial of permanent homes is harmful for children, and it is also costlier to states. Agencies could demand that LGBT children in their care undergo harmful conversion therapy practices or withhold modern medical care if they believed in faith healing—all without losing their government funding or license.
These laws are also out of step with the majority of Americans. According to a new survey, 64% of Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
As other states like Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma consider legislation like that passed in South Dakota, check out this guide about how to have effective conversations about these license to discriminate laws that hurt children and deprive them of forever homes, while using taxpayer funds.