aroundtheregion

South Dakota
Sioux Falls received poor marks on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, the Argus Leader reports:

The city of Sioux Falls hasn’t moved the dial toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in three years, according to a leading LGBT advocacy group.
The Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index each year grades hundreds of U.S. cites based on the inclusivity of local laws, policies and government services when it comes to LGBT people. Cities get credit for having nondiscrimination policies in writing and an active human rights commission. Law enforcement and mayoral outreach to LGBT residents also earns points.
In 2015, Sioux Falls scored 28 out of 100, well below the national average of 56. Blemishing Sioux Falls’ marks in the report: no local non-discrimination laws for private employment, housing and public accommodations; no protections for transgender city employees; and no liaisons between city departments and the LGBT community.

The Leader issued an editorial blasting the city’s low rankings and making suggestions to improve protections for LGBT residents and visitors:

It’s not a good number. It’s below the average rating of 56 nationwide and there’s been no progress in the three years we’ve been included in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Index.
The index is a measure of laws and policies that are on the books. While it’s a substantive method with measurable results, it’s not necessarily the best reflection of a community’s inclusiveness.
That’s not to say there aren’t elements in our city who disagree with the recognition of LGBT community on a fundamental level. There are.
Nor is it suggesting Sioux Falls as a warm and welcoming community for citizens whose sexual orientation is outside the traditional man-woman coupling. It is not.
However, it is equally misguided to characterize this place as a Bible Belt bastion of bigotry.
There is an important distinction that needs to be made, that is between the city of Sioux Falls and the state of South Dakota. Laws are laws after all and some of what we get judged on is controlled by Pierre. And without going into too much detail, it’s fair to say that the distinction between the metropolitan area and the state as a whole is more than geopolitical reality. There is a difference in attitude and certainly inclusivity.
That said, it needs to get better.
The city of Sioux Falls should address the policy deficiencies pointed out by the Human Rights Campaign. Specifically, the mayor and City Council should consider non-discrimination laws for private employment, housing and public accommodations. We should provide protections for transgender city employees and open communication between city departments and the LGBT community.

Iowa
At an Iowa appearance, Sen. Ted Cruz vilified transgender youth, NBC reports:

Ted Cruz told supporters on Wednesday that allowing a transgender student to use a faculty restroom amounts to “inflicting” the student on teachers but is a better alternative than “sticking him in the shower with the teenage girls.”
At a campaign stop in Spirit Lake, Iowa, Cruz blasted the Department of Education for “trying to force a junior high to let a teenage boy shower with the teenage girls.” He often cites this on campaign stops as an example of federal overreach.
Amid a pause and an audible “oh my” from someone in the crowd, Cruz continued, “Look, my five-year-old daughter, Catherine – she knows the difference between boys and girls.”
Cruz asked the audience how they would feel if their local school board allowed such an incident to happen.
A woman, who would not give her name to NBC News, interrupted and told Cruz and the crowd about such an incident at the town’s local high school, saying the student used the bathroom in the teachers’ lounge.
Cruz responded, “Look, I don’t know the facts of that, but I’ll say that inflicting – inflicting him on the teachers is probably better than sticking him in the shower with the teenage girls.”

North Dakota
In North Dakota, same-sex marriages continue happen at a slow pace, WDAY reports:

North Dakota counties have issued about 75 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, but the ruling has had minimal impact on county offices, state lawmakers were told Tuesday.

Donnell Preskey Hushka of the North Dakota Association of Counties said 66 licenses issued to same-sex couples accounted for about 1.3 percent of the 4,797 total marriage licenses issued last year. Cass County led the way with 20, followed by Grand Forks County with 12, Ward County with 11 and Burleigh County with six.
However, that data doesn’t include an estimated 10 licenses issued to same-sex couples in the first couple of weeks after the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, when a new form was still being developed to reflect applicants’ gender, she said.
County commissioners in three counties – Morton, Stark and Walsh – had to appoint or transfer duties to other staff members after a county employee raised a personal objection to issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Preskey Hushka said.

Lawmakers are looking at aligning North Dakota’s laws and constitution with the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, the Associated Press reports:

A Legislative committee debated Tuesday whether to suggest changes to the North Dakota Constitution and state statutes to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage, or whether to leave the now-invalidated state laws in place in protest.
The Supreme Court in June declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, and a federal judge ruled shortly afterward that North Dakota’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.
North Dakota had state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and 73 percent of North Dakota voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2004 limiting marriage rights to man-woman couples.
Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, one of 21 members on the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee, said the state could leave the moot laws on the books as a “public policy statement,” similar to what some states have done to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision from 1973 that established a nationwide right to abortion.
But Gail Wischmann, who is a Cass County Sheriff’s Office sergeant in Fargo, told the committee it should make a recommendation to the full Legislature to update the wording of the constitution and statutes to include same-sex couples.
Wischmann said she married her partner, Laurie Baker, last month.
“If you don’t change the statute recognizing all married couples, then it’s almost like we’re thumbing our nose at the Supreme Court decision,” Wischmann said. “No matter what anybody’s beliefs are, it’s the law.”

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