More details regarding the teen page on the South Dakota State Library web site raises more questions about the propriety of Gov. Mike Rounds’ decision to yank the page. Contrary to Rounds’ initial assertions, it turns out this wasn’t a page developed by just two people at the State Library. Instead, the page was previewed by “librarians, teachers and students across the state before it was launched.” The State Library Board is the supervisory and policy-making body for the State Library. Rounds has essentially divested that Board of its decision-making authority on this issue and imposed his personal views to determine what information the State Library can offer on its web site. Moreover, Rounds, a Catholic, did so only after receiving a complaint from Bishop Carlson of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.
Equally disconcerting, Rounds decided to jump into the federal marriage amendment debate. Rounds sent a letter (PDF file) to Sens. Daschle and Johnson asking them to support the amendment. Rounds told them the amendment would “safeguard our most cherished values and moral standards, and prevent any court from overstepping its mandate by attempting to legislate their [sic] opinion concerning this issue.” Rounds then claimed “he made the request in the spirit of teamwork, not partisan politics.”
There’s several things wrong with this. As noted below, the federal amendment does nothing for South Dakota. We already have a law on the books defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and do not recognize marriages from other states between persons of the same gender. Why would the governor of a state support abdicating the right of the states to control domestic relations?
Rounds also should have no concern over activist courts in South Dakota. Over the last 100 years, only 5 of South Dakota’s 28 governors have not been Republicans and they have served a total of 18 years. South Dakota’s governor has constitutional power to appoint Supreme Court justices. Thus, all current members of the Supreme Court have been appointed by Republicans. To envision the South Dakota Supreme Court as activist is ludicrous, particularly in this area of law.
It may be of greater concern if Rounds is correct that partisan politics did not prompt his letter. It may instead indicate this is another example of Rounds taking marching orders from Bishop Carlson.