Yesterday, I tried to sit down and compose a 600 word essay on "What It Means to Be a South Dakotan." I couldn't seem to get the words out because I had a lot of trouble thinking of glowing things to say. With all the terrible things going on in our legislature, it seems more and more that to be a South Dakotan means being a bigot. Even though I no longer live in South Dakota, I still pay close attention to the legislative sessions happening there - partly out of sheer habit, and partly for care of my home state. I was shocked this morning to find that one of our legislators - Mark Venner, a Republican representative from Pierre - is so enthused about "traditional marriage" that he decided that a bill clarifying terms of domestic violence needed specification that domestic violence is between a man and a woman. Therefore, he added in "with a person of the opposite sex" into all potential places in the bill.
If you can't immediately figure out why this is a terrible idea, here's a short list:
A gay man overpowers and beats his boyfriend? Not domestic violence, according to Venner's definition.
A college student beats up his same-sex roommate? Not domestic violence.
A sister beats up her step-sister? Not domestic violence.
In seeking to back-door a refusal to acknowledge that same-sex partnerships can and DO exist in South Dakota, Venner acts against the interests of South Dakotans everywhere.
The bill has not been approved by the legislature, but has been returned to the SD senate for approval. I know I have a lot of South Dakotan readers on my blog, so here's the action plan - I've linked to the state legislature's page for finding your representative - you can enter in district, county or city. You will want to find the Senators from your district.
For ease, here is a form letter you can use, though I would urge you to write your own story or feelings on the subject:
Dear [insert legislator here],
I read recently of the House amendments to SB 141 - the revision of the definition of domestic violence. After most mentions of "relationship," Rep. Mark Venner has added in the phrase "of the opposite sex," narrowing the definition of domestic violence within intimate relationships and partnerships to be only between a man and a woman.
This definition is restrictive and harmful. As much as many would like to dismiss it, there are gay partnerships in South Dakota, and unfortunately, domestic abuse does sometimes happen. Venner's amendments create a false narrative around domestic violence that fails to protect victims and, indeed, removes legal recourse and help for many of the victims. It perpetuates the narrative the domestic violence is a man beating a woman, or a woman beating a man, when, indeed, abuse can happen in any form to any intimate relationship, regardless of the gender of the people involved. It is appalling that the South Dakota legislature would consider approving such a falsehood.
For the protection of the people of South Dakota who are already marginalized and trodden down by a legislature that fails to recognize their relationship as legitimate, I would urge you not to compound the problem by telling them that the abuse they may experience is not actually abuse. Please do not vote for SB 141 as long as Venner's amendments to the bill are intact.
Your name here.
Recently, the Virginia legislature tabled several controversial bills after hearing from many of their constituents. We can have the same effect in South Dakota. Go forth, and write!