Around the Region: WI church boots Boy Scouts; SD continues debate on anti-transgender bill


A church in Wisconsin gave a Boy Scouts troop the boot for its inclusive stance; South Dakotans continue to debate as anti-transgender bill poised to become law; A Des Moines high school debuted gender-neutral bathrooms.

An Appleton church is the latest to drop a Boy Scout troop because the Scouts have become an inclusive organization, the Post Crescent reports:

Appleton’s Faith Lutheran Church is ending its relationship with Boy Scout Troop 73 and Cub Scout Pack 3022 over the national Boy Scout association’s decision last summer to allow openly gay troop leaders.
The church is giving the groups a soft deadline of June 1 to find new chartering organizations to host meetings and store equipment.
The church is autonomous of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, but receives guidance from the umbrella organization. In December, the synod advised its 6,105 churches nationwide to consider cutting ties after Boy Scouts of America dropped its ban on openly gay leaders.
In the months since, Faith Lutheran leaders discussed the issue and chose for moral reasons to end the charter, Pastor Dan Thews said. The church has chartered the Boy Scout troop for 60 years.
“We feel like we haven’t changed at all but they’ve changed where they now allow openly gay scout leaders, troop leaders to influence and shape the minds of boys,” Thews said. “And that’s just contrary to our understanding to God’s truth in the Bible.”

Fortunately, many churches in Appleton have offered space to the homeless Scout troop, the Post Crescent reports:

A number of churches in the Fox Cities have offered their space for the Boy and Cub Scout groups soon to be displaced from Faith Lutheran Church in Appleton.

The Lutheran congregation, affiliated with the Missouri Synod, is cutting ties with the groups over the national Boy Scouts of America’s decision last summer to drop its ban on openly gay leaders.

The two scouting groups have roughly 100 boys between them.

Etienne Mejia, chairman for Boy Scout Troop 73, said he’s met with two churches and plans to meet with at least one more to see potential new spaces.

Faith Lutheran, which has chartered Boy Scout troops for 60 years, hosts the troop’s weekly meetings and stores all its equipment.

“For us, it’s our lifeline,” Mejia said.

Meanwhile, a church in Stevens Point has opened its doors to LGBTQ issues, WAOW reports:

A Wisconsin mother’s heart was broken after her transgender son committed suicide. But Thursday, Joanne Lee told her story to an audience at the Intercession Church in Stevens Point in the hopes that her family’s story can save lives.
“He came out and then I didn’t accept him,” said Lee. “[I wish] I could tell him that I loved him so much no matter what, you know, [for] who he was. But I cannot go back.”
While Lee cannot go back, she is trying to create a positive future for LGBTQ people in Wisconsin through advocacy.
“The inspiration was trying to save kids’ lives.” event organizer: Bobbiejoy Amann said. “I started transitioning back in 2008 and kind of completed that process in 2013. So I know what people are going through.”

South Dakota
Gov. Dennis Daugaard met with transgender students last week as he decides whether or not to allow a bill barring transgender-inclusion in schools to become law, Slate reports:

Thomas Lewis, 18, a senior at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls—the largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 164,000—was one of two transgender students who spoke with Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels on Tuesday. He described the meeting to me as friendly and productive. “We just put forth our stories and talked about how a bill like this would affect us,” Lewis told me. “In some cases, it was ‘I’d been bullied’ and in other cases it was ‘I haven’t experienced bullying, but I’m still afraid to use the appropriate restroom.’”
Lewis, who came out last March, said that while he hadn’t personally been bullied—the whole coming out experience for him had been “all positive, I have a very accepting environment”—he still avoids using restrooms at school.
“Using the male bathrooms was a slight problem at first because I still presented as female when I came out,” he said. “It was recommended that I not use the men’s room right away and I understood that—I didn’t want to make it awkward for anyone. So I just go home and use the bathroom there because at least that bathroom will always be clean. I don’t use the bathroom at all at school.” Obviously not an ideal long-term solution.
The governor, Lewis said, made for a respectful audience. “He could’ve very easily just sat back and only acted like he was listening, but he didn’t. He was very receptive and responded to everything we were saying.”
Lewis declined to speculate on what the governor’s willingness to meet with transgender students indicated about the fate of HB 1008. “I have no idea what he’s going to do,” he told me. “He said he’s yet to listen to the committee hearing about the bill, and that he’ll take what he can from that before making his decision. I do feel that we’ve opened his eyes a bit to show that transgender people are also human and deserve the same human respect and the same human kindness as everyone else.”

Daugaard told the Argus Leader that meeting with transgender South Dakotans was helpful, but didn’t say whether he would veto anti-transgender legislation awaiting his signature, the Argus Leader reported:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said meeting with students “put a human face” on the impact a so-called transgender bathroom bill could have if he approves it.
In his first experience knowingly meeting with transgender people, Daugaard spoke for about half an hour Tuesday with three transgender people, including two students.
And while both sides entered the meeting a little nervous, Daugaard and two of the transgender residents left with a sense of understanding for one another.
“It helped me see things through their eyes a little better and see more of their perspective,” Daugaard said.

The Mitchell Daily Republic gave Daugaard high marks for meeting with the transgender community before contemplating the bill:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard made a respectable decision to meet with transgender people Tuesday at the Capitol.
The meeting came via request from a Sioux Falls nonprofit group after the governor said he had not knowingly met a transgender person. Daugaard is currently mulling a controversial bill that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex at birth.
The nonprofit group, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, and LGBT-rights organizations have urged the governor to veto the bill. The deadline for action on the measure is Tuesday.
Following the meeting, Daugaard said “it helped me see things through their eyes a little bit and understand their perspective.”
During his tenure as governor, Daugaard has done a commendable job to, at the very least, get interested parties to the table to hash out issues.

Actress Laverne Cox is urging South Dakota’s governor to veto the anti-transgender bill on his desk, the Sun Times reports:

A proponent and advocate for transgender causes, actress Laverne Cox is weighing in on a South Dakota bill that prevents transgender students in public schools from accessing restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender.
“Let’s urge the South Dakota governor to veto H.B. 1008, the bill that ostracizes trans students and targets them for even more harassment and bullying,” Cox wrote in an Instagram post.

TIME takes a look at the realities of South Dakota’s anti-transgender bill:

Most of those so called “bathroom bills” have failed, often after causing great controversy. But South Dakota is poised to become the first state to require that public school students use sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms based on their “chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth.” That is thelanguage in a bill that awaits a veto or signature from the governor and would affect an estimated 135,000 children in the state. Imagine the young woman in San Francisco lived there. Other children with intersex traits surely do. And then consider the reality of what such a bill could do to her life.
“So you would say every girl who goes into a bathroom has to not only pull down her pants and prove she has a vagina, but you also need to have a blood test and show you’ve got XX chromosomes?” says Rosenthal. “Well, that girl would have XY chromosomes. Which bathroom does she use?”

Caitlyn Jenner spoke out against the bill on Twitter, the Associated Press reports:

Transgender Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner has called on South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard to veto a bill that would require transgender schoolchildren to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex at birth.
Jenner urged her Twitter followers on Monday to tell Daugaard to reject the measure and to not make South Dakota the first state to adopt such a law. She also tweeted a link to an American Civil Liberties Union page opposing the bill.

Another anti-transgender bill dies without getting a hearing, Metro Weekly reports:

A bill in South Dakota that would have required state and local governments to only accept personal information on a person’s birth certificate as legally valid, regardless of whether the information is inaccurate or out-of-date, failed to gain approval after the House of Representatives voted 61-2 to table it for the remainder of the legislative session.
The bill, as written, would have required any public body of the state or any political subdivision to accept as valid only the information supplied on a person’s birth certificate for purposes such as licensing, school registration, or allowing transgender children to participate in sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity. But the measure’s lead sponsor asked that the bill be tabled, a request to which an overwhelming majority of House members agreed.

A bill that would allow religious people to refuse service to LGBT people has died at the South Dakota Capitol. Lambda Legal released a statement on its demise:

“Although this is a victory, we still have work to do to show the nation that equality is a South Dakota value. There are two more incredibly harmful bills still alive that we cannot let become law. These bills, HB 1008 and 1112, are hateful and unfairly target young transgender people in schools. House Bill 1008, a bill aimed specifically at hurting transgender students, is sitting on Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk right now waiting for him to take action. He must veto this bill and he must do it quickly because the clock is ticking. Signing the bill or not acting at all would be unacceptable because of the awful consequences that such a law would likely have on the safety of young transgender people.
“Another anti-trans bill, House Bill 1112, which would effectively exclude all transgender young people from participating in high school sports and activities, is also making its way through the South Dakota Legislature. We cannot rest until all of these bills have been stopped.”

The Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan takes a look at South Dakota’s history with marriage equality:

It’s hard to believe now, but South Dakota’s fight over same-sex marriage started almost unceremoniously 20 years ago.
The first three months of 1996 were, in a sense, chaotic. Headlines were dominated with fights over government shutdowns, the Farm Bill, an ongoing crisis in the Balkans and severe winter weather. Many South Dakotans — along with most Americans —had their minds on other matters as the South Dakota State Legislature went about its 1996 session.
In January, Rep. Roger Hunt (R-Brandon) introduced HB 1143, a bill that would define marriage as between a man and a woman and refusing to recognize any same-sex marriages in the state of South Dakota. The bill was the second attempt at a law that had failed during the 1995 session.
HB 1143, however, was successful.
District 18 Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, who was serving in the Senate in 1996 as well, told the Press & Dakotan that there was very little notice of the bill at the time.
“I don’t recall that it was even a controversial issue in 1996,” Hunhoff said. “I don’t think the Legislature spent much time on it.”

An organizer for an LGBT safe schools conference is declining to testify at an investigation initiated by anti-LGBT Republicans. The lawmakers have targeted the conference due to safer sex information provided to students. Critics have characterized the investigation as an anti-LGBT witch hunt. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has the details:

The organizer of a 2015 anti-bullying conference that allegedly provided students with graphic sexual information refuses to voluntarily appear before an Iowa legislative committee.
Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, declined through his attorney to appear before the House Government Oversight Committee. He said appearing would “unnecessarily blur the bright line” between the private organization and the state’s regulatory authority.
Iowa Safe Schools organizes the annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) Youth.
“That is simply a step too far,” Monson’s attorney Nate Boulton wrote to Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Melcher-Dallas, who had requested the meeting. Heartsill is vice chairman of the committee.

The first transgender woman to be elected to office in Iowa met with Muscatine’s GSA, the Muscatine Journal reports:

Hiawatha City Council member Aime Wichtendahl visited Muscatine High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club on Wednesday to talk about her experiences in local politics and as a transgendered Iowan.
Originally from Newhall, Wichtendahl spent eight years in Hiawatha before she decided to become involved in city government. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from Mount Mercy University, and was elected to the council in January.
She is the first transgendered person to be elected in the Iowa government, according to her introduction from Jackie Haller, an adult adviser for the Muscatine High School’s GSA.
“I am transgendered, it was one of those things I knew my entire life,” Wichtendahl said, “but of course it wasn’t always easy being in rural Iowa or watching the negativity in the media.”

A Des Moines high school has implemented gender-neutral restrooms, KCCI reports:

Roosevelt High School is now the first Des Moines public school to have gender-neutral restrooms.
Two gender-neutral restrooms are now open in support of the LGBT community. Officials at the school say the restrooms are a part of a widespread effort to make students and staff members feel accepted.
The gender-neutral restrooms once served as two separate faculty restrooms. They can now be used by anyone in the building.
The idea was put forth by student Zoe Wagner, who said students at the school come from all walks of life.
“Gender-neutral bathrooms are essential to students who are transgender,” said Wagner.

The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune editor Dana Larson put that paper on record as being one of the few that took a more callous view of safety for transgender students. In an editorial this week, Larson wrote:

High School bathrooms used to be places to grab a smoke, possible barter for a little weed, or maybe roll a freshman for his lunch money. Most of us avoided them unless it was, shall we say, an emergency. The only choice in bathroom selection was with grafitti (crapper next to the gym) or without (sneaking into a staff john.)

Being a teenager was complicated enough without having to decide whether you wanted to pee like a boy, a girl, a girl becoming a boy, a boy becoming a girl, a girl dressing like a boy, a boy dressing like a girl, a boy who likes boys, a girl who likes girls, a boy or girl who likes boys and girls, an unencumbered being that is neither boy or girl… well, you get the picture.

As a parent, I could care less if they send kids to a gender-neutal lounge or a two-holer outhouse behind the school. I would care if my dollars were being spent on potties for a couple of kids instead of on teachers, books and computers for the classrooms we all are counting on.

Debate continues on a bill to add gender identity to the state’s hate crimes laws, the Gazette reports:

The Iowa Senate briefly debated legislation Thursday that would expand the state’s hate crimes law to include gender identity and gender expression…
Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, the bill’s manager, said the measure was a step toward protecting all Iowans equally by building on action already taken to bolster civil rights.
“Despite progress that we’ve made in Iowa for lesbians and gays, Iowa still is a very difficult place to live if you are a transgender individual,” McCoy said, noting that transgender Iowans are “marginalized” because they’re different and fear reporting violence against them because of the exposure it might bring to them and their families…
The measure was deferred, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he was uncertain whether the bill would be called up for additional debate in the Senate.

North Dakota
A man is facing charges after threatening his daughter after she came out as a lesbian, The Advocate reports:

A father in North Dakota is charged with terrorizing after becoming so upset over her sexual orientation, he allegedly pulled a loaded gun on his daughter and threatened to kill her, Forum News Service reported today.
Karim Bakir, 47, was arraigned in West Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday after he allegedly pointed the gun at his daughter and other family members in the backseat of a car at a gas station there on Sunday, the wire service reported.

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