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Pressler Condemns SB 128: Civil Rights Good, Losing Ellsworth Bad

South Dakotans interested in justice and equality, you have at least two candidates for U.S. Senate who are willing to stand against the South Dakota Legislature's urge to roll back civil rights. Democrat Rick Weiland has condemned Senate Bill 128, the Orwellian proposal that brands intolerant bullying as tolerant "anti-bullying" legislation.

Now Independent candidate Larry Pressler joins Weiland in urging South Dakotans to reject SB 128. In an e-mail to the Madville Times, Pressler says his opposition to this immoral legislation comes naturally from his history of supporting civil rights:

...I am very strong on civil rights—I marched with Martin Luther King as a young man. I was about the only Republican member of the Senate to be a co-sponsor of the equal rights amendment for women in the 1980s, and I was a co-signor of the Amicus Brief to the Supreme court on gay marriage [Larry Pressler, e-mail to Madville Times, 2014.02.04].

SB 128 seeks to protect business owners from the economic harm of civil rights lawsuits from classes of customers against whom too many religious South Dakota legislators want to discriminate (because bad behavior should have no consequences, right?). Harking back to the practical argument he made last spring for South Dakota to legalize gay marriage, Pressler says discriminatory bills like SB 128 could do greater damage to South Dakota's economy than any civil rights lawsuit. SB 128 could result in the closure of Ellsworth Air Force Base:

As a practical matter for South Dakota, we must be very careful not to be the "Mississippi of the North," and we have some very practical interests. For example, it has been the policy of Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington that gay persons can serve openly in the military. The Ellsworth Air Force Base has been on the closure list before, and I have fought to keep it here in South Dakota. There will be married gay people reassigned from other states, including Air Force facilities as close as Minnesota. Those gay soldiers will want to adopt children, own property, and get married in South Dakota. The criterion for retaining an Air Force Base is a friendly atmosphere to the soldiers who might be assigned there. Any sign that gay personnel are not welcome in South Dakota would harm Ellsworth's chances of remaining an open base.

As a Vietnam veteran, I spend part of my time volunteering to help homeless veterans and other veterans. I belong to the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Disabled American Veterans, and I can assure you that they will all be actively seeking more gay members now that gays are openly welcomed in the military. South Dakota does not want to get on the wrong side of this issue [Pressler, 2014.02.04].

Big business may be as hesitant to station their rainbow staffs in an openly gay-hating South Dakota as the military:

Also, as a second practical matter, we now have many national businesses, foundations, and labor unions in our state, and we want more. They have moveable personnel policies, and they may want to assign gay married persons or gay persons to South Dakota. If we are the "Mississippi of the North," we will not have those assignments.

And perhaps I am being unfair to Mississippi, as it has now advanced its civil rights, perhaps beyond many northern states, but what I am saying is that we don’t want to get ourselves into a position that is viewed as anti-gay [Pressler, 2014.02.04].

Pressler, like Weiland, says all U.S. Senate candidates should enunciate their position on Senate Bill 128. But Pressler also urges South Dakota to "move on to positive economic development issues."


  1. Becca Pivonka 2014.02.05

    I think the South Dakota legislature shows in the bill that they couldn't give two toots what the federal government (and by extension the military) thinks with this bill. These anti-gay (because yes, that is what they are) legislators would be willing to bite off their nose to spite their own face.

  2. mike from iowa 2014.02.05

    Spent a couple hours searching congressional records about Pressler's claim as a co-sponsor of the ERA. He may be right. From early on until around 1980,Republicans were amassed behind the ERA. Pressler wouldn't have taken office before 1981. In 1980 there weren't enough states to ratify the ERA and it was extended until 82. I studied the bills passed from 80 until mid 83 and found nothing about the ERA. Did find HR3975 which encouraged production of oil from tar sands. Became public law 97-77 on November 13,1981.

  3. G-Man 2014.02.05

    Mike, actually Pressler took office in 1979 after being elected to the Senate in 1978.

  4. G-Man 2014.02.05

    Mike, you may be confused with Abnor, who took office in 1981 after being elected to the Senate in 1980.

  5. mike from iowa 2014.02.05

    G-Man you are correct,sir. I crossed wires thinking he was swept in in the Raygun election in 1980.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.05

    From this day forward I will refer to SB128 as Putin's Law in honor of the Olympics.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.02.06

    I like that Roger. Okay if I use Putin's Law too?

  8. G-Man 2014.02.06

    Wouldn't it be ironic if Larry Pressler regained his seat from Johnson, 18 years later???? It would be history-making....

  9. G-Man 2014.02.06

    Thune/Pressler/Robinson in 2015??? Strange things do happen....

  10. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.06

    By all means Deb, feel free to use Putin's Law and spread the word.

Comments are closed.