- By Darren Thompson
PIERRE, S.D. — Senate Bill 166 unanimously passed in the South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning, making the bill the first time a state government in United States history has approved protections for Native American Two-Spirit individuals.
Native News Online reported on Feb. 16, 2021 that SB 166 includes provisions of existing laws that would protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity with specific identification as Native American Two-Spirit.
“Senate Bill 166, an act to revise provisions regarding hate crimes, was voted and passed unanimously today in the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Sen. Red Dawn Foster (Oglala Lakota) to Native News Online.
South Dakota law does not prosecute hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Federal law has protected both categories since 2009, when the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Hate crimes committed on the basis of the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity can be prosecuted in federal court.
“These additions will bring our state hate crime law up to par with federal standards,” said Foster. “Currently, our state law does not include color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, including Native American Two-Spirit. This bill adds these characteristics and makes sure that everyone in South Dakota is equally protected.”
The bill is one of Sen. Foster’s first sponsored bills and is up for a full debate and vote in the South Dakota State Legislature next week.
“I am looking forward to pitching this bill next on the senate floor next week,” Foster said.
The bill, if approved, will expand the prosecution of hate crimes to include race, color, ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or identification as a Native American Two-Spirit, making it a a Class 6 felony if a person maliciously and with specific intent to intimidate or harass any other person or group of persons in whole or in part because of that person's or group of persons' actual or perceived class.
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (10/24/2021): D.C. Briefs
GOOD MEDICINE: Fighting COVID with traditional healing and Western medicine
PHOTOS of First Lady Jill Biden's Visit to Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe
Wes Studi’s Mother, Maggie Studie, Passes Away at 92
Teacher Who Did a Poor Job of “Playing Indian” in Video that Went Viral is Placed on Leave
Native Perspective. Native Voices. Native News.
We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.