GOP Lawmaker Thinks Businesses Ought To Be Able To Deny Service To Black People

A Republican lawmaker in South Dakota thinks there’s no need for the government to meddle in the private sector, even if a business were to turn away black customers.

Here’s Phil Jensen, a GOP state senator and free market absolutist, in his own words.

“If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks, and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them,” Jensen told the Rapid City Journal in a story that suggested he just might be the crimson red state’s “most conservative lawmaker.”

In this year’s legislative session, Jensen offered up a bill that was even more extreme than the legislation in Arizona that would have given businesses an opening to discriminate against LGBT customers.

Unlike the Arizona bill, Jensen’s measure was explicit. It aimed to give business owners permission to deny service based on a customer’s “sexual orientation” without the fear of a lawsuit.

The legislation was ultimately killed in committee, with one GOP lawmaker calling it “a mean, nasty, hateful, vindictive bill.”

But Jensen, who moved to South Dakota from Kansas in 2003 with a sign taped to his truck saying he was heading north to “Vote Senator [Tom] Daschle Out,” remains steadfast in his support of the bill.

“It’s a bill that protects the constitutional right to free association, the right to free speech and private property rights,” he told the Journal.

Jensen did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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