South Dakota Republican lawmaker Phil Jensen tried to pass a bill that would grant business owners permission to deny service based on a customer’s sexual orientation – without fear of a lawsuit.
Senate Bill 128 follows a similar, unsuccessful attempt by Alabama lawmakers to give businesses an opening to discriminate against LGBT customers.
Jensen has expressed his firm belief that businesses should have the right to deny service based on a customer’s race or religion. Furthermore, he believes that the assessment of what is right or wrong should be addressed, not by the government, but instead by the free market.
“If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks, and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them,” Jensen said.
Like the Alabama bill, Jensen’s bill wasn’t passed; the South Dakota bill was killed in committee. It received highly negative responses, such as one GOP lawmaker’s deeming it a “mean, nasty, hateful, vindictive bill.”
Jensen, 61, is a GOP state senator and free market absolutist. He moved from Kansas to South Dakota in 2003 with a sign taped to his truck reading, “Vote Senator [Tom] Daschle Out.”
He has called himself a true conservative, and believes that many members of his party are, as the Rapid City Journal reports, “Republicans in name only.”
In 2008, he ran for state Legislature and won. He served in the House from 2009-2012.
Despite the negative attention his bill has received, he continues to steadfastly support it, claiming that the bill “protects the constitutional right to free association, the right to free speech and private property rights.”
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