Domestic violence bill sparks debateLegislation defeated over concerns of true intent; possible homosexuality link discussed.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Defenders of the traditional family structure blocked passage of a broader definition of domestic violence Thursday in the state House of Representatives.
“I’m not afraid to say it. They want to include gay and lesbian relationships,” Rep. Shawn Tornow, R-Sioux Falls, said.
House members voted 39-25 to halt any further consideration of Senate Bill 141.
Rep. Charles Hoffman, R-Eureka, said he was taught that when he doesn’t understand something he should vote no. “We might best serve the judicial system to kill this bill,” he said.
Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, accused the bill’s opponents of going through “the back door” on the issue and challenged them to come through “the front door.” She cited the state’s bill of rights saying all people should be treated the same.
“We have the responsibility to protect all citizens: Boys, girls, men, women, same-sex partners. It doesn’t matter,” Rozum said.
The original version of the bill filed by Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, would have expanded domestic abuse to cover “one or more partners in an intimate relationship.”
At the time, Peters, as well as lobbyists supporting the bill, denied it had anything to do with gay, lesbian and other relationships.
That continued to be the story until recent days, when the legislation was forced into a Senate-House conference committee for negotiation.
The proposed new definition was eventually narrowed through the House and Senate processes to refer to “an intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex.”
Rozum presented the bill Thursday as a change to protect the funding stream for South Dakota shelters and centers that receive more than $7 million annually in federal grants.
But Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, said he remains confused about the real intent of the legislation. Hunt said he’s asked three times for the federal statutory reference to the source of the grant money and the specifications to qualify.
He wants to see what strings are attached and doesn’t understand why the definition has to be changed now if organizations have already been receiving $7 million.
Hunt said he suspects money is being offered at the federal level as a form of political influence.
Hunt said it appears the real intent is to expand “domestic” to include “intimate relationships” in a state where marriage is defined by law as between a man and a woman. He noted that “dating” also would fall under the “domestic” definition.