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Sen. Ernie Otten says those that disagree “should go elsewhere.”

Otten, a Republican from Tea, introduced two bills aimed at defending the states churches and businesses from same-sex marriage. The bills are co-sponsored by 25 fellow Republicans. Though South Dakota already allows discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the proposed bill would add an additional layer of discrimination in the state’s statutes.

SB 67 says:

No person or any personal business may be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if such action would cause any such person or personal business to violate the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs

Another bill, SB 66, exempts clergy from performing same-sex marriages.

In an interview with KOTA, Rapid City’s ABC affiliate, Otten said he introduced the bill because of “radical activists.”

“When we see what is happening in America by radical activists, a new level of intolerance has been brought forth,” Otten says. “It’s the intolerance of conscience. It is conscience that guides us, strengthens us, and gives us a sense of purpose. “
“This matter of conscience must be protected from those who are intolerant of someone else’s deeply held religious views,” Otten explained. “These radical activists are targeting Christian individuals and businesses to force them to comply or face financial ruin.”
“It is important that you actually read the bill,” Otten stressed. “I’m not forcing or imposing an agenda on anyone. What it does do, however, is protect any South Dakotan from anyone trying to impose his or her radical views upon them by way of strong-arm tactics using legal and financial threats.”

Otten told KELO, a Sioux Falls CBS affiliate, that America is becoming more intolerant of people who are intolerant — and those people need protection.

“Well, to be quite frank, that a lot of folks are just intolerant of folks with conscience. I believe that has to be protected,” Otten said.
“I do not believe that it is right, as they’ve done in other states, where they target a florist or a photographer, and then principally sue them out of business. This is a freedom of religion and freedom of, actually, commerce. No shirt, no shoes, no service,” Otten said.

And he told the Rapid City Journal that people who have a problem with his bill to “go elsewhere.”

“I have no problem if that is your choice; go ahead and do it,” he told the . “I am drawing a line in the sand here that people of conscience be protected.”
“My attitude on it is if you choose to service (same-sex couples), that is fine. I do not care, nor do I care what your lifestyle is,” he said.
“There are folks with a conscience and you should respect that.” For those who do not agree, he said, “Go elsewhere.”

South Dakota has a short legislative session and the bill would have to pass by mid-March. The state bans marriage in its constitution, and does not provide protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Two states bordering South Dakota — Minnesota and Iowa — have both marriage equality and protection against discrimination based on being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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