Today, the House State Affairs Committee voted to kill a bill that would have prohibited the hosting of “lewd or lascivious” programs or events on state-funded facilities on college campuses.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1113, a heavy-handed swipe at free speech and expression. Wherever there is an effort to restrict South Dakotans’ free speech and expression based on the content of that expression, the government has to have a compelling interest in that effort and must write such laws in the least speech-restrictive way possible. This bill did not do that.
“It’s impossible to define lewd and lascivious in a way that isn’t hopelessly vague and subjective, and government officials cannot impose their personal moral values on others. We’re thrilled that the legislators on the House State Affairs Committee agreed,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “It’s no secret that some of our elected officials in Pierre deeply disfavor anything they associate with the queer community, such as drag performances, but when we’re talking about adhering to the First Amendment in the context of art and entertainment, defending free speech means tolerating some works that others might find lewd or lascivious. Freedom of expression for ourselves requires freedom of expression for others.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.