San Francisco community discusses intent of South Dakota ban

Published: May. 1, 2017 at 9:21 PM CDT
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Last fall the City of San Francisco approved a law that stops all city-funded travel and business with any state that passes anti-LGBT legislation.

While several states immediately made the list, South Dakota was added to the city's ban this March when the state legislature passed a law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to turn away adoptive families that do not align with their religious believes.

KSFY news reporter Bridget Bennett traveled to San Francisco to speak with city leaders and community members about the intention behind the ban.

“I'm not sure how often city employees would go to South Dakota anyway,” San Francisco mom Kristal Curtis said.

“O ya, all of my friends canceled their plans, it was crazy, we had to have a candlelight vigil,” San Francisco resident Galen Maloney said with laughter.

“No, I don't think South Dakota is a hotbed of San Francisco taxpayer spending, but you never know,” California State Senator Scott Wiener said.

Wiener is the former San Francisco Board of Supervisors member behind the city’s ban on all states with anti-LGBT laws.

“It’s not about being retaliatory or vindictive,” Wiener said. “It’s about sending a very clear message about our values and that discrimination is not ok.”

Many people in the city agreed, the ban may not have any real impact in South Dakota, but it does send a strong message about San Francisco’s values.

“I think California and San Francisco are definitely taking a stand,” San Francisco resident Mario Sosa said. “It's more of a symbolic stand rather than an effective actual form of protest.”

Wiener believes the more cities, states and corporations that implement these bans, the more effective they will be.

“The hope is that more and more cities will take this approach, in fact the state of California passed a law last year banning travel, so it’s not as broad as San Francisco’s,” Wiener said.

While the state of California bans travel to other states that have anti-LGBT laws, the City of San Francisco took that one step further, banning all business with those states.

“I don't think San Francisco does very much business in South Dakota, but you never know, if there is a businesses that is headquartered in South Dakota, or produces some kind of goods or services in South Dakota or if there is some other kind of travel that might otherwise happen, sometimes it’s surprising where we do business,” Wiener said.

For example, under the ban, Daktronics headquartered in Brookings would not be able to provide a scoreboard for a city-owned facility in San Francisco.

“Yes that company would be for the most part prohibited from bidding on a contract from the City of San Francisco, although there are exceptions,” Wiener.

“It makes you feel supported, it makes you feel safe, it feels like someone is sort of on your side and really understands what equality all about and that everyone deserves the same thing,” San Francisco newlywed Mitch Rusk said.

Rusk and his new husband Brian Parent took a break from their wedding celebrations at San Francisco’s city hall to talk about the ban in South Dakota. While the couple hasn’t decided on kids just yet, they say it’s great to live in a state where they know they will have that option.

“Why wouldn't' you have the option? Everyone should have the same options,” Rusk said.

“A family is a family, it doesn't have to have a Mom and a Dad to have a family,” Parent said.

“To say that we're going to make it harder for these kids to be accepted into a loving home because the parents happen to be LGBT, that's just wrong,” Wiener said.

“People are people and good people make good parents,” Maloney, a homeless youth counselor said. “That's the most important thing, especially when you're talking about adoption and people just wanting to feel loved.”

Everyone Bennett met in San Francisco shared the same view that LGBT families should have equal rights.

“I think families come in all sorts of forms and shapes and to be part of an alternative family in a state that is a little more conservative, it can definitely be harder and creates a lot more pressure as a family unit,” Sosa said.

So even while city employees may not travel to South Dakota that often, San Francisco’s symbolic ban could influence other residents' travel plans.

“Nobody is going to want to come visit your state,” Parent said. “They're going to be afraid to visit your state, they're not going to feel welcome and that's what you should want is people visiting you and seeing what your lifestyle is like and no one is going to want to go there.”

“I think LGBT people in San Francisco understand what LGBT people in other states go through in terms of living under discrimination and really being attacked and marginalized,” Wiener said. “So we feel a special responsibility to stick up for our brothers and sisters in all 50 states, including South Dakota; there are a lot of LGBT people in South Dakota and they need advocates.”

“There are good people out there in South Dakota and North Dakota and Colorado and everywhere, it just takes a little more effort to spread the common message of love and acceptance and unity,” Maloney said.

The prime sponsor of the South Dakota adoption bill shared his reaction to these San Francisco viewpoints and the city’s ban.

“As far as the lifestyle, that's a choice they make, same with the lifestyle here,” Republican Representative Steven Hauaard said. “There's actually no prohibition in South Dakota on alternative families, in fact there's approximately two thousand attorneys in the state that can provide those services to anyone who chooses.”

Representative Haugaard says there are many same-sex families adopting and fostering children in South Dakota; he says the law is simply designed to protect the religious freedoms of the faith-based adoption agencies in the state.

“There’s nothing discriminatory in our legislation and for San Francisco to interpret it that way, is misplaces, they simply should read it and understand it. It’s simply a measure to protect agencies that are already in place and have functioned here for decades,” Haugaard said.

The South Dakota lawmaker says he believes the San Francisco ban is a form of bullying other states into their viewpoint; he also believes the ban legislation has so many written exceptions that Daktronics and other South Dakota companies would have no problem doing business in the city.