PIERRE — Billy Mawhiney and his husband Kyle Margheim spent more than two years going through criminal background checks, submitting financial disclosure statements and attending parenting classes before they became foster parents.
It wasn’t an easy process, but the Sioux Falls couple stuck it out because they knew they wanted to be parents and specifically parents to foster children in the community.
But now they worry that a bill making its way through the South Dakota Legislature could eliminate that option for them in the future. If approved, Senate Bill 149 would protect religious or faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that deny child placement to same-sex couples and single parents.
Those groups could still benefit from state funds and contracts and wouldn’t face retribution from the state.
“It adds a religious litmus test to foster and adoptive parents,” he said. “It’s not an easy vetting process as it is.”
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The bill’s sponsors and religious advocacy groups in the state said the measure was needed to protect the child-placement groups’ religious freedom, while opponents said it would legalize discrimination against those who don’t hold those same values or who don’t meet the “traditional family” model.
Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, said he wanted to ensure that groups with “sincerely held” religious views are able to place children with traditional families or with other parents that they deem appropriate.
“I’m trying to make sure those agencies are able to hold onto those highly-regarded religious views as…