aroundtheregion

LGBTQ communities throughout the region celebrated Pride over the last week, and also mourned the loss of 49 mostly Latinx LGBTQ community members who were killed in a hate crime in Orlando. Also, a Sioux Falls nondiscrimination ordinance has stalled, a Des Moines LGBTQ bar was vandalized, and South Dakota will sue the Obama administration over efforts to create safer schools for transgender students.

Iowa
At Iowa City Pride, the community remembered Orlando during the Pride parade, the Gazette reports:

Thousands of people, many wearing colorful outfits and waving rainbow flags, filled the sidewalks of North Johnson Street, Iowa Avenue, North Dubuque Street, Washington Street, South Gilbert Street and East College Street. The parade stepped off around noon and included about 30 entries — everything from local businesses to churches to LGBT organizations. A number of drag queens joined the festivities throughout the route.
Organizers said despite the events in Orlando, they planned to carry on the celebration as usual. A moment of silence was planned for a post-parade gathering.
Sgt. Kevin Bailey of the Iowa City Police Department said nothing out of the ordinary took place during the parade.
Saturday’s Pride event also marked a first for Jefri Palermo and her wife Pat Brockett. Palermo, an Iowa City resident, said she has marched in the Pride Parade nearly 40 years, but had never attended with her wife.
For Brockett, it was her first parade.
“Every year, it gets more inclusive and there’s more variety of people,” Palermo said. “We need to celebrate that we are alive, living happy lives and we are part of the community. More and more, it’s all of us celebrating our diversity.”

And on Monday, the community in Iowa City held a vigil, KCRG reports:

Hundreds of people in Iowa City are remembering the 49 victims who died in the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

They gathered on the pedestrian mall for a candlelight vigil on Monday night.
The more than three hour vigil was in support for the LGBTQ community in Orlando.
Both organizers and the people attending said it was a night they needed for healing.
“I identify strongly with the queer community, all my friends are in the community, and after seeing what happened in Orlando I think all of us are feeling like we need to claim our space and not be afraid,” said Misty Rebik, who attended the vigil.

A vigil was held in Des Moines on Tuesday to remember the victims in Orlando, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports:

“Love is love, is love, is love,” was pronounced by speakers, written on signs and chanted by the roughly 1,000 people who gathered at a park in downtown Des Moines on Tuesday evening to honor the 49 victims of a shooting at a gay club in Orlando over the weekend.
The event was organized by One Iowa, a nonprofit advocacy group for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gay Iowans.
Sobs could be heard in the crowd as speakers read aloud the names of all 49 victims of Sunday’s shooting.
“Let us honor the memory of the victims by coming together for the common good,” said Veronica Fowler of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, one of more than a dozen speakers to make brief remarks at the event.

The community in Sioux City held a vigil, Siouxland Matters reports:

Right here in Siouxland, the First Unitarian Church of Sioux City held its own vigil to honor those killed and injured in the incident.
Music, special readings and a chalice lighting were part of the event. The local LGBT community doesn’t see the killings as a clear-cut terror attack. They see it as a hate crime targeting their community during Gay Pride.
They say things need to change, but getting the support from legislators has been a roadblock to making real change.
“I don’t think going out and killing 50 gay people is going out matter if slaughtering children didn’t matter enough to our legislators. This isn’t always how our society was…no one needs an automatic rifle unless they intend to kill people. We need to do something about the senseless gun violence in our country.” says Karen Mackey, Co-founder, Siouxland Gay Alliance.

The Blazzing Saddle in Des Moines was it by a hate crime, WHO-TV reports:

The oldest gay club in Iowa was attacked with vandalism overnight.
Robert “Mongo” Eikleberry arrived at his co-owned bar the Blazing Saddle in the East Village around 9:30 a.m. Thursday and found two large rocks sitting out front. That’s when he looked up and saw the front windows shattered.
“My first thought was, I just got through fixing them,” Eikleberry said.
The same thing happened to the bar just a few weeks ago, but the windows were fixed just in time for the Capital City Pride Festival last weekend.
Eikleberry said he’s unsure if the vandalism is related to the rainbow flag that was raised at City Hall Wednesday night.
“My mayor, who I dearly love, Frank Cownie, decided to raise the gay flag at City Hall. It’s never ever been done. So we had ceremony and Frank hoisted it up. Now all of Des Moines gets to see it,” Eikleberry said.

In a surprise twist, a local church offered to pick up the tab to repair the bar’s windows, KCCI reports:

After window damage was reported to the front of a gay bar Thursday, a group of Christians pitched in to help with the cost of repairs.

The co-owner of the Blazing Saddle said someone threw rocks at a few windows until one broke around 4 a.m. Thursday.
Strangers from Two Rivers Church showed up to the Blazing Saddle Friday with flowers and donated money to help repair the broken window.
The cost is expected to be a little under $200.
“They were incredibly supportive and nice and told us we matter in their community too,” one witness said. “My heart was touched tonight. We need more people like this around.”
The business, located in downtown Des Moines’ East Village area, experienced the same kind of vandalism about three weeks ago, though security cameras did not capture any images of the vandal or vandals.

Anti-LGBTQ Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King weighed in on the Orlando hate crime by surprisingly mentioning LGBTQ people, Think Progress reports:

Republicans in Congress were quick to offer public prayers and sympathies following the horrific mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub on Sunday night. Most of their pronouncements, however,neglected the fact that nearly all of the victims were gay.
But on Wednesday, one prominent Republican lawmaker broke ranks with the majority of his colleagues. Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” with Chris Cuomo, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) decided to acknowledge that the shooter specifically targeted gay people.
“I think it’s clear that gays were targeted in Orlando,” said King. “It does matter.”
King — who once embarked on a 1,300-mile bus tour to urge people to vote out every “activist” Iowa Supreme Court Justice who “forced” same-sex marriage on his state — also said he was sympathetic toward America’s LGBT community; that they were in his prayers; and that he considers them in “equal standing with God.”
“It’s tragic they were targeted because of their sexual orientation,” said King, who once said same-sex marriage would lead to people being able to marry their lawnmowers.

Muscatine’s LGBTQ community held a vigil as well, KWQC reports:

Many people gathered in Muscatine Monday night and with heavy hearts they honored the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Pastor Ty Thomas of the Calvary Church in Muscatine organized the candlelight vigil, and says coming together is crucial in times like these.
“We can’t get in a car and go down there, but we can come together and show unity and show love and show support,” Thomas said.
More than 100 people sending their thoughts from Iowa to those hurting in Florida, through prayer, songs and by just being together.
“Even here in Muscatine, Iowa, in the Quad Cities area, we can still pray for this country and we can pray for people in Orlando, Florida and their families and the people [who] are hurting,” Susana Rivera, of Muscatine, said.
“You know you feel like there’s nothing you can do from Muscatine, Iowa for Orlando, and our hearts are breaking for that city and so we just wanted to get together to do what we could do, which is pray,” Thomas said.

North Dakota
The community in Grand Forks held a vigil on Monday, the Grand Forks Herald notes:

Dozens gathered Monday evening in Grand Forks to mourn and show support for those affected by the deadly attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend.

Attendees, some dressed in rainbow colors, met in front of the Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center on University Avenue to pray, read the victims’ names aloud and sing a civil rights anthem. Organizer Kyle Thorson said the attack’s setting made it “especially powerful” for him as an openly gay man.
“I think part of this is because nightclubs have historically been a safe space for us, one of our sacred places where we can live openly as who we are without being afraid of people judging us, or beating us up or killing us because of who we are,” he said, later urging attendees to not let their anger and resentment “darken who we are as people.”

Wisconsin

Two Wisconsin lawmakers tussled over the role of religious bigotry in the Orlando hate crime, the Associated Press reports:

A Republican legislator called a Democratic rival a “loon” Tuesday for suggesting in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting that conservative Christian beliefs drive violent acts against gay people.
Rep. Mandela Barnes, a Milwaukee Democrat looking to win a state Senate seat from a member of his own party this fall, tweeted Sunday in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting that churches, Congress and statehouses contain “terroristic enablers” and asking how many people conservative Christian ideology has driven to attack gay and transgender people.
Rep. Jesse Kremer, a Kewaskum Republican who sponsored a failed bill this past session to force people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth, issued a statement Tuesday calling Barnes an “absolute loon.”
“I am calling out someone who should be a leader, but has instead become a laughing stock,” Kremer wrote. “Rep. Mandela Barnes, who is hoping to become a Senator by ousting one of his own for not being radical enough, is blaming Christians for the evil act of war on U.S. soil by an ISIS allegiant this past weekend. This guy, a sitting Wisconsin representative, is an absolute loon of a leader doing everything he can to divide and conquer, politicizing a horrific event … The Orlando rampage was derived from pure evil and hate — something that Christians and Muslims both denounce.”
Barnes said in response that he’s a practicing Christian himself and that those tweets came at a “self-reflective moment.”
“I have no problem challenging the thought process of individuals who are members of my own political affiliation as well as my own religious affiliation,” Barnes said, “because at the end of the day I want us to be stronger, I want us to be better than we were before.”
Kremer also said in his release, titled “Divisive Rhetoric from Leaders Must Cease,” that Barnes lacks the courage to address real problems in Milwaukee, including crime, the breakdown of the family and inner city youth desperate for father figures.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin is speaking out about hate crimes in the wake of the shooting, the Huffington Post reports:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who in 2012 became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate, wants to remind people that Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was a hate crime.
Flanked by her fellow Senate Democrats — as well as the family members of people who died last year in the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and San Bernardino, California — Baldwin explained on Thursday why the shooting in Orlando, which left at least 49 people dead, fit the criteria of a hate crime.
“As I woke to the news on Sunday of the worst gun attack in modern U.S. history, by a U.S. citizen inspired by terrorist groups, filled with hate, who illegally purchased a weapon of war and targeted the LGBT community at a gay bar on Latin night, I asked myself: ‘How many more times do we have to wake up to news like this before we act?’” Baldwin said.
“I want to stress that this was a hate crime,” she went on. “What is a hate crime? … It’s a crime in which the victims are targeted based on certain characteristics — in this case, LGBT Americans, Latino Americans. And it’s meant not only to kill or gravely harm its victims, but to terrorize all those who share those characteristics, who belong to that community.”

Milwaukee’s Pridefest was underway when news of the shooting broke, Wisconsin Public Radio reports:

Leaders of Milwaukee’s LGBT community say that the killing of 50 people at a gay nightclub in Florida early Sunday morning won’t stop the community from pursuing civil rights.
At Milwaukee’s PrideFest on Sunday, a minute of silence was observed for the victims of the most fatal mass shooting in U.S. history.
Scott Gunkel, president of the company that runs the festival, said the shootings will unite the LGBT community.
“Separated by religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender fluidity, we will unite, we will unite in love, we will unite together to fight the hate and fight the violence,” said Gunkel.
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, who said she was at the festival as a bisexual member of the LGBT community, said she’s already seen signs of greater unity.
“I had the largest group of volunteers that I’ve had in the last few years, come and stand with me and march shoulder to shoulder,” she said, describing a pride parade she marched in Sunday.

South Dakota

The Sioux Falls LGBTQ community celebrated Pride while also remembering the tragedy in Orlando, KDLT reports:

An estimated eight to 10,000 people spent Saturday afternoon celebrating LGBT equality at the Sioux Falls Pride Festival in Terrace Park. The day’s festivities encompassed a year of triumphs, but also a year of challenges.

“Love is love,” said 15-year-old Tiffany Ardion, Sioux Falls.
And that was the message supported by members of the LGBT community and their allies.
“I just love seeing the community come together,” said 16-year-old Raven Parker, “I love seeing all the friends see acceptance here.”
It’s a message that has seemed to pull a community, no stranger to hardships, together. Standing, or sitting, at the front lines of change.
“I have a transgender sister and a lesbian sister,” said Ardion, “I’m here to support them and all the people like me.”
In what’s expected to be the biggest pride festival to-date, the Sioux Falls Pride Festival, hosted by the Center for Equality, seemed to have a more delicate tone, almost a week after a gunman shot and killed 49 people in what President Obama is calling a “hate-crime.”
“I think the tone starts out just a little subdued because we’ve had a lot of horrible tragedy,” said Representative Paula Hawks (D) District 9, “this is the one year anniversary of another tragedy that happened in a church setting, we’ve had school shootings. We’ve brought all of these communities together to form a common bond which is the most horrible bond possible.”

A nondiscrimination ordinance has stalled in Sioux City, the Journal reports:

The Sioux Falls City Council has indefinitely tabled proposals to expand the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
The measures would have banned the city from discriminating against transgender people in its internal hiring decisions, and made it a city offense for private employers, landlords or business owners to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
City Attorney David Pfeifle (FYF’-lee) pitched the changes earlier this year but reversed course last week, citing conversations with state Attorney General Marty Jackley, The Argus Leader reports (http://argusne.ws/1rpDx0C ).
Councilor Pat Starr, who tried to offer a substitute motion to defer action on the proposal until 2017, said he is shocked that the rest of the council did not want to have a discussion about the issue.
“With 75 percent of the citizens of Sioux Falls voting for adding sexual orientation as a protected class during our last city election . I think the people who testified at least deserve a date when we could discuss in the future,” he said.

South Dakota will sue the Obama administration over transgender inclusion in schools, the Argus Leader reports:

Following a deadly mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, South Dakota and a group of other states will move forward with a legal challenge to the Obama administration’s guidance on school bathroom policies for transgender students.
Attorney General Marty Jackley on Tuesday said that he and more than a dozen other attorneys general still planned to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration as they believe the president’s action was an overstep.
The news came a week after Jackley initially announced that he would join a coalition of other state’s in opposing the policies and days after a mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. Forty-nine people were killed at a night club there early Sunday morning and dozens more were injured.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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