The sponsor of a South Dakota bill that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex weddings or any others that violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” told the Associated Press today that gay rights are taking the United States “down the road of Iran.”
Rep. Steve Hickey, Republican of Sioux Falls, is one of two primary sponsors of a bill that would allow any person or business to “decline to provide certain wedding services or goods due to the free exercise of religion.”
Hickey told the AP that “religious rights need to continue to trump gay rights” in order to prevent the country from “heading down the road to Iran,” an odd argument since Iran is a theocracy in which gay people can face flogging or the death penalty.
Hickey, pastor of a Sioux Falls church, said a court ruling legalizing gay marriage in South Dakota might expose him to lawsuits or prosecution because he believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
“Religious rights need to continue to trump gay rights. Otherwise, we’re heading down the road of Iran, where it’s convert or die, be quiet or die,” Hickey said. “If we want to talk about church and state, this is a bill that keeps the state out of my church.”
The bill is clearly aimed at LGBT people, but its wording is ambiguous, potentially opening the door for many other kinds of discrimination as well.
In an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Hickey seemed to oppose provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, saying, “Let the market bear it out. If there’s some racist group, they can boycott it.” He also claimed that he would support allowing businesses to deny wedding services to Christians.
South Dakota does not currently allow same-sex marriage, but the bill covers receptions and other “wedding services or goods.” UCLA law professor Eugene Voloch pointed out to the Argus Leader that South Dakota doesn’t have a law preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, so people in the state “are already free to discriminate, even much more broadly, based on sexual orientation.”
State Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell noted to the Argus Leader that clergy are already protected from participating in wedding ceremonies to which they have religious objections. She called Hickey’s bill “mean-spirited.”