aroundtheregion

Iowa
A popular Des Moines LGBT bar has been the target of a hate crime, the Des Moines Register reports:

Hate mail with suspicious powder was delivered to the Blazing Saddle, a gay bar in Des Moines, on Friday, the bar and police said. The substance was talcum powder.
Police officers, firefighters and hazardous materials teams were dispatched to the bar at about 1 p.m., roping off East Fifth Sreet between Grand Avenue and Locust Street.
Bryan Smith, part-owner of bar, said everyone inside the bar was OK.
“We get hate mail like this every once in a while but never powder,” Smith said.

We Are Iowa notes that many area businesses have rallied around the Blazing Saddle:

Hours after the hate letter was delivered, Vanity & Glamour business owner Patrick Farris was helping other East Village business owners get dolled up for the fundraiser that included a drag event.

“When people heard about this letter, they responded with how sick, how wrong. I’m happy to see Iowa does have family values that are inclusive not exclusive,” said Farris.

He’s been talking with customers and friends all day including ZONwerld’s owner Brian Ohrberg, who’s part of Friday night’s fundraiser.

“We can make money for the community, for any charity and I’d do it for any charity,” said Ohrberg. “In the East Village, we all support each other and it’s incredible.”

People are upset not only over the hurtful words, but also the wasteful use of resources.

“It’s shameful that someone would take away first response resources to give attention to hate and bigotry. It doesn’t help the community or anyone at all,” said Farris.

While the hate letter has been the talk of the town, everyone in the East Village is ready to shift their focus onto the charity event.

“The fundraiser tonight, it’s doing the oppositve. All the hurtful words, it’s cowardly to come at us with negativity so we’re turning around and coming together,” said Kerry Weyers , President of Capitol City Pride.
This will be the 37th year for the Capitol City Pride festival. Last year was the first year for the fundraiser and the charity raised nearly $2,500.

South Dakota
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a marriage equality challenge from South Dakota at an expedited pace. Arguments will begin the week of May 11, the Associated Press reports.

North Dakota
North Dakota lawmakers heard emotional appeals from members of the LGBT community and allies about passing a bill to end discrimination against LGBT people, the Forum of Fargo Moorhead reports:

With his husband standing nearby, Bernie Erickson told North Dakota lawmakers on Monday that it was wrong the first two times the Legislature voted down bills to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. “I think if this fails a third time, you are sending a very clear message that not only are you OK with discrimination in North Dakota, you encourage it,” the Fargo Realtor said.

The Bismarck Tribune editorial board called on lawmakers to pass the bill:

North Dakotans made their feelings known Monday about a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Senate Bill 2279 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, housing and government services. At the moment, state law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability and marital status.
It’s an emotional issue with supporters saying it will help counter bias and bullying. Opponents argue the bill creates a special class and trumps religious beliefs. The Tribune understands the concerns of opponents but feels North Dakota would be best served by passage of SB2279.

North Dakota businesses are also urging the state legislature to pass a bill to ban discrimination against LGBT people, the Dickinson Press reports:

Several businesspeople in Grand Forks and Fargo have argued that Senate Bill 2279 can be a marketing tool to help a state with more than 20,000 job openings.
“I feel that we should be doing everything that we can to let people know that when they move to North Dakota, whether it’s to work in existing industries or to work for companies that are growing or to start their own business, that we’re a state that welcomes and values all of their citizens,” said Jonathan Holth, a co-owner of the Toasted Frog restaurants. “First and foremost, I think this is the right thing to do.”
The Greater North Dakota Chamber, an influential organization at the state Capitol, has chosen to remain neutral on the legislation this year.

Arlene Erickson died last week. She and her husband Lloyd were well-known advocates for LGBT rights, the Forum of Fargo Moorhead reports:

Michael Erickson struggled with his sexuality for years until finally, at the age of 27, he took his own life. He went into his garage and started the engine of his car on a winter day in 1975.
To ease the pain, Michael’s parents, Arlene and Lloyd Erickson, had to do something.
“When Michael died, I had this feeling it could not end here. Not in this utter silence,” Arlene told The Forum in 1988.
Over time, Arlene and Lloyd sought out others with gay relatives, and they helped found the Fargo-Moorhead chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the mid-1980s. At a time when homosexuality was not widely accepted, the couple visited churches and college classrooms to talk about their son and their experience.
The occasion for remembering this couple who took an early public stand for gay rights comes this week with the death of 88-year-old Arlene. She died Monday from an aneurysm, and her husband Lloyd, a former chief engineer at KXJB-TV, died in 2009 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren believes they were the first local couple to speak publicly about a gay son or daughter.
“That was a really courageous and controversial thing to do,” said Lindgren, who was also a PFLAG member.

Wisconsin
The State of Wisconsin must reimburse the ACLU for costs related to a marriage equality lawsuit that the state lost, the Associated Press reports. The ACLU will recover more than a million dollars in expenses in the case.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the state should have known it was facing a losing battle:

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia who believes bans like Wisconsin’s are unconstitutional, said that he wasn’t surprised at the cost to state taxpayers and that it could have been worse. Gov. Scott Walker, one of the defendants, and then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, both Republicans, opposed the same-sex plaintiffs at every level of the federal court system, he said.
“The state never seemed to appreciate how much taxpayer money is expended on this type of litigation in which it was pretty clear from the outset that Wisconsin was going to lose,” Tobias said.

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