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Otten Pulls Senate Bill 67, Thinks Discimination Already Legal

Last updated on 2014.02.05

I just want to celebrate with Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell and the South Dakota Democrats, who joyfully announce that vile, discriminatory, and unconstitutional Senate Bill 67 is dead!

But I can't. Prime sponsor Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea) withdrew the bill yesterday, but not because of the 4,000-some folks who quickly signed an SDDP petition calling for its defeat. Senator Otten did not suddenly recognize businesses cannot discriminate against lesbian or Lakota customers based on the business owners' professed religious beliefs.

Senator Otten withdrew SB 67 because he thinks such discrimination is already legal:

Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, said it was that legal advice that led him to withdraw the bill.

"I’ve been checking with lawyers… to make sure it was in good standing," Otten said. "I found out we already had protections in for the folks" [David Montgomery, "One Refusal-of-Service Bill Withdrawn," Political Smokeout, 2014.01.29].

I'm listening to Senator Otten testify right now before Senate Judiciary in support of his other current anti-homosexual grandstand, Senate Bill 66, which redundantly asserts the right of pastors to decline to solemnize a same-sex marriage. He is steeped in the language of fear, claiming intolerant extremists are waging war against religion, seeking an America in which he cannot worship as he sees fit. Senator Otten has gotten his bills exactly backwards. The protections of pastors Senate Bill 66 seeks are already available; Senate Bill 67 is (was) outright discrimination. Its proposed protections are not currently legal.

But the motivations of both are vile and deserve our vigorous opposition in defense of the Constitution and equality.


  1. John Tsitrian 2014.01.30

    I'd buy the lame announcement if Otten would specify what "protections" are already in.

  2. Richard Schriever 2014.01.30

    Someone needs to send "constitutional purist" Ernie a copy of the 4th amendment.

  3. Becca Pivonka 2014.01.30

    Wow...keep making me proud, South Dakota. I may stop claiming to be from there.

  4. Becca Pivonka 2014.01.30

    This is all completely if I was gay, a restaurant could refuse to serve me, a grocery store clerk could refuse to check me out, a gas station could refuse to sell me gas, an attraction could refuse to let me in? This is absolutely disgusting.

    As I was reading this, I also started thinking...if I was a photographer, florist, baker, or anything else related to weddings, or owned any type of business...I'd be paying attention to people that were being denied services because of their orientation, and then I would approach them and offer to provide my services. Let the word spread through the gay community about how awesome my business is. Business is business, money is money.

    I was just talking last night with a couple of friends who are gay - they were driving up to Sioux Falls to visit extended family this morning. They kept referring to SoDak as being "red-neck" and "backwards". One of them said that if it was not for his grandma, he wouldn't step foot inside of the state. If people feel like that before this bill, how would people feel after the bill? Completely unwelcome? People need to wake-up...this is how so many people in other states view South Dakota - not a great image to have.
    With younger generations being more progressive and understanding of differences, you will continue to see young graduates leaving the state and going to states that are more accepting of all people.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.30

    SB 128—yup. Another abomination. Time for another blog post....

  6. Jen Sundem 2014.01.30

    This type of discrimination needs to be national news. The new version of the bill is worse than the old one, as the discrimination is more targeted than the last, which I think will make a good SCOTUS case. At least now there's no question where they were going with this in the first place.

    Incidentally, it almost stripped my gears when I moved from Angie Buhl's district to Ernie Otten's. Sometimes I miss my little house in SF.

  7. J. Moore 2014.01.30

    Gee, I wonder if any gay tourists ever come to this state? They might rethink it. I sure would.

  8. C. Raterman 2014.01.30


    I am writing a paper about this conflict for a graduate school project. Could you provide any insight as to the current "right of refusal for anyone" for business owners? Could proponents of SB 66/67 simply hang a sign that says they could refuse service to anyone (such as a bar or restaurant) and refuse service of a same-sex couple with classifying the justification for service refusal?

    Also, I have heard from a classmate that Senator Jensen filed an even stronger protection bill today. If you have any news about this new bill, would be interested in hearing about it.

  9. Brian 2014.01.30

    SB 128 is pure 21st Century Jim Crow and it is absolutely disgusting. This is a party that preaches "freedom" and "liberty", while promoting tyranny and repression. This is a stark reminder that what happened in Germany in the 1930's can happen again, even in the United States of America. I don't know if South Dakota has recall procedures for elected officials, but I think the clowns pushing this garbage deserve nothing less. Shame, shame, shame on you all!!!!!

  10. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.31

    Shame on you, SD Republicans. Shame, shame, shame.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.31

    Jen, at least you have a chance to rally your fellow District 6 voters to remove Otten from the Senate.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.31

    Hey, C. Raterman! See the link Nick gave to the new worse bill, plus my commentary:

    South Dakota law does not explicitly mention sexual orientation as a protected status. So my interpretation is that store owners could indeed hang "We don't serve GLBT" and face no legal consequences.

    But the EEOC interprets "sex" to include sexual orientation and declares GLBT discrimination in the workplace illegal. Hmmm... which interpretation is superior?

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