PIERRE, S.D. (ChurchMilitant.com) - South Dakota becomes the fourth state to protect the right of adoption agencies to refuse placing children with same-sex couples.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard on March 10, signed Senate Bill 149 which reads, "No child-placement agency may be required to provide any service that conflicts with or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with any sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the child-placement agency."
The law grants a religious exemption to taxpayer-funded adoption and foster-care agencies, allowing them to avoid placing children with LGBT couples based on religious objections.
Adoption and foster care agencies that withhold services to gay couples out of concern for the child's spiritual welfare are now protected from adverse state actions including:
Loss of state funding
Loss of tax-exemptions
Imposition of fines
South Dakota becomes the fourth state to afford such legal protection to adoption agencies. Michigan, North Dakota and Virginia have already granted similar religious exemptions to child-care facilities. Other states in the process of enacting such laws are Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma.
Supporters of the law say the preemptive measure was necessary, to ensure such facilities acting on religious convictions, would not be forced to close their doors in the event that South Dakota followed several other states in banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Adoption agencies in Massachusetts, California, Illinois and Washington D.C. have voluntarily shut down services after their states passed laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Alan Solano, said he wants to prevent the same thing from happening in South Dakota.
At the "Humanum" conference in 2014, Pope Francis stated, "Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."
Laura Durso, vice president of LGBT research and communications at the Center for American Progress, remarked that the law is "shamefully targeting LGBT parents and vulnerable kids."
James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT Project, called the legislation "deeply troubling because it's "only one of many bills moving through state legislatures across the country that authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT Americans."
Jim Kinyon, executive director of South Dakota's Catholic Social Services, says the legislation prevents the state from discriminating against faith-based organizations, which act in accord with their "sincerely held" beliefs.
Religious agencies believe children do best with a mother and a father. A study conducted last year by the Catholic University of America (CUA) shows children raised by same-sex couples are twice as likely to suffer depression as adults compared to children who have a mother and father.
The study, "Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression Among Adults with Same-Sex Parents," published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment, is the first study to monitor such children into adulthood.
The findings show that 18 percent of children raised by same-sex couples were depressed as adolescents, but by age 28 the number of those depressed surged to 51 percent. This was more than twice as high as those raised by heterosexual couples.
The study also reveals that 44 percent of children raised by gays have suicidal thoughts during adolescence. This was three times higher than in children raised by a mother and a father.
The research also showed that 93 percent of children raised by same-sex parents felt distant from their parents during adolescence, and 73 percent felt distant from them as adults.
The study was conducted by sociologist Paul Sullins of CUA, who has conducted previous studies that found children raised by same-sex couples suffer twice as many emotional problems as children raised by opposite-sex parents, and four times as many emotional problems as children raised by their joint-biological parents.
Another study by Sullins showed that ADHD is twice as common among children raised by same-sex couples than in children raised by male and female parents.
Prior to signing the bill, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he was worried that private child-placement agencies, acting in the best interest of a child, might be sued if they denied placing someone in a "protected class," such as members of the LGBT community. His hope is that the recent measure will protect child-care agencies from such lawsuits.