SD state lawmaker: Businesses should be allowed to 'turn away people of color'

A South Dakota state lawmaker argued in a Facebook comment that businesses should be allowed to turn down people based on the color of their skin. 

The comment from state Rep. Michael Clark (R) came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. 

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That prompted a Facebook post from Clark, hailing the decision as a "win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion," according to the Argus Leader newspaper, which reported on the since-deleted post. 

Some Facebook users began questioning Clark's post, prompting the state lawmaker to respond to one.

"It is his business," Clark wrote in a comment. "He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then [that's] his choice."

Clark deleted the post on Tuesday, saying he had "jumped in on it a little bit too fast," the Leader reported. 

He later apologized for the comment in an email to a reporter for the Leader.

"I am apologizing for some of my Facebook comments," he wrote. "I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race."  

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. 

In an interview with the Leader, Clark said he believed that business owners should be able to turn away certain customers if they would otherwise violate their religious beliefs. 

"If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away," Clark told the Leader. "People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business."

He said that it would ultimately be up to the consumers to decide whether they want to patronize a business or not.

"The vote of the dollar is very strong," Clark said.