South Dakota

None of South Dakota’s large cities scored 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, Black Hills Fox reports:

A new study from the group The Human Rights Campaign is out assessing LGBT equality in cities across the country, and Rapid City did not do well, scoring just 22 out of a possible 100 points.
Rapid City got points for its Human Rights Commission, for providingservices for LGBT homeless people and for reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI.
Rapid City was shut out in the report in the categories of non–discrimination laws, municipality as an employer and relationship with the LGBTcommunity….
Black Hills Center for Equality President Nancy Rosenbrahn says, “When you have an area that you live in that doesn’t have equal protection for jobs, for housing, you have a hidden population of people that tend to stay to themselves and don’t report thing. When the report asks about people that have stepped forward, it shows a zero. And there’s that reason that there doesn’t feel like there’s a municipal support.”
The average city score across the country was 56.
Brookings got the top score in South Dakota at 52.
Sioux Falls was rated at 28, followed by Rapid City at 22.
Aberdeen, Watertown, Vermillion, Gillette, Wyoming and Pierre were also rated in the survey.

Debate continues over legislation that would block transgender-inclusive policies in schools across South Dakota and repeal the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s transgender-inclusive policies.
Libby Skarin, policy director at the The ACLU of South Dakota, penned a column in support of transgender inclusion and against such legislation in the Argus Leader:

For the past few years, South Dakotans have been talking a lot about transgender people. Understanding what it is like to be transgender can be hard, especially if you’ve never met a transgender person. And as is often true, we don’t know what it is like for others until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. When listening to the stories of transgender students, one thing becomes abundantly clear: they just want to live their lives like everyone else and be treated respectfully. That’s why creating a law that treats these students differently from their peers and further stigmatizes them isn’t sensitive as Rep. Fred Deutsch stated in his letter – it’s hurtful.
It’s a simple truth that transgender kids are living and going to school in South Dakota today, and they want what any kid wants – to be loved and treated fairly by their teachers, their friends, and their communities. Schoolyard bullying is harmful in all of its forms, and we can all agree that we must do everything we can to end it. The way we can do that is to create school environments that respect all kids and empower all students – rather than limit them. Our schools have a duty to ensure that every student can learn in a harassment-free environment, including transgender students, who studies show are especially vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.

Two Iowa cities garnered a perfect 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, the Business Record reports:

An annual ranking of how well large cities support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans shows that Iowa’s seven largest cities are doing better than the national average.

Davenport and Iowa City were among 47 U.S. cities that earned perfect scores of 100. All seven of the Iowa cities rated scored higher than the national average of 56: Cedar Rapids, 99; Sioux City, 83; Des Moines, 82; Ames, 70; and Waterloo, 62.

The Press Citizen reports on the reaction by Iowa Citians:

The rating is a way for city staff to assess policies and take stock of successful programs and initiatives, said Stefanie Bowers, Iowa City’s equity director, and it is also is a useful tool for making decisions about to improve inclusivity.
“It’s helpful for us for them to provide this evaluation of our services and programs so that we not only know how we’re doing in comparison to our peers, but we can see whether or not we’re meeting the needs of all members of the community,” Bowers said.
Iowa City scored 91 points and earned 14 bonus points.

In Wisconsin, only Madison scored 100 on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, the Racine Journal Times reports:

Racine was one of five Wisconsin municipalities studied this year by the HRC as the organization sought to gauge the level of protections and inclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The average score for cities in Wisconsin was 60 out of 100 points. Racine ranked at 41; Kenosha came in at 38; Milwaukee scored 82; Madison had a perfect score of 100; and Green Bay ranked at 42, according to study results.

The Republican author of an anti-transgender bill says he may amend the bill to allow gender neutral bathrooms in schools, WKOW reports:

The author of a school transgender bathroom bill is showing some willingness to compromise, but critics say an amended version of the legislation still puts too many mandates on local school districts.
The original version of AB 469, as authored by Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), would require all restrooms and changing rooms in public schools to be used only by students of one sex, defining sex as the gender a student is identified at birth.

The amended version being floated by Rep. Kremer would allow schools to have gender neutral bathrooms that students of any sex could use, but only if there are floor to ceiling partitions to separate the stalls.
“That is a concern, because the existing facilities that have been built may or may not meet those specifications,” said Dan Rossmiller, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. “Schools that have what they believe are workable gender-neutral bathrooms may have to retrofit rooms that they’ve just spent money remodeling.”
Madison and Watertown are two districts that already provide gender neutral bathrooms at some of their schools.

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold an executive session on Thursday, but AB 469 is not scheduled for a vote.

North Dakota
The Fargo Forum profiled Faye Seidler who is suing Sanford Health for discrimination:

Among the many interesting things about Fargo resident Faye Seidler is that more Americans report having seen a ghost than having met a transgender person like Seidler.
Seidler, who transitioned from a male identity into a female one in her first 90 days in a new job at Sanford Health here, said if she hadn’t come out then and started the transition, she might have joined the ghost statistic — so to speak.
Even after considering suicide and finding transition much the better option, Seidler said coming out at work wasn’t easy.
“I understand my company didn’t deal with this much,” she said. “I’m being judged, not on the quality of my work but for who I am.”
Seidler, who eventually decided to leave her job at Sanford and file a discrimination lawsuit against Sanford, now works at a new job.
Using a community innovation grant, she developed a survey that aims to measure whether workplaces in North Dakota would welcome cultural competency training for lesbian, gay and transgender issues, part of a project called North Dakota Safe Zone.

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