South Dakota
A bill to legalize discrimination in adoption is headed to the governor’s desk for signature, the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement:

Today, HRC joined the ACLU of South Dakota in urging South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to veto Senate Bill (SB) 149 — discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ people and other minorities. SB 149 would enshrine taxpayer-funded discrimination into state law by allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth in their care and to reject qualified prospective LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s purported religious beliefs.

“We implore Governor Daugaard to veto this legislation. This proposal grants state-funded adoption agencies a license to discriminate, harming children in needs of families by rejecting a wide range qualified prospective parents including LGBTQ parents and by acting against the best interest of LGBTQ youth in the agency’s care,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Last year, when Governor Daugaard vetoed HB 1008, he stood on the right side of history and protected transgender children. He must do the same now. This legislation puts discrimination ahead of the best interests of more than a thousand children in South Dakota waiting for a loving home.”

“The governor’s veto of HB 1008 put South Dakota on the right side of history, but Senate Bill 149 is a harmful and discriminatory piece of legislation that sets South Dakota backward. This would allow state-funded child placement agencies, based on their religious beliefs, to discriminate against children and prospective parents. Loving, qualified families could be turned away simply because they are LGBT, of a different faith than the agency, or divorced. The hundreds of children who are awaiting forever families in our state deserve better than this. Their best interests should be our priority, not the religious beliefs of these agencies,” said ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth A. Skarin. “We hope that Governor Daugaard recognizes the harm that discriminatory laws like SB 149 cause our state and considers a veto. If SB 149 becomes law, we want to hear from you or any child or family you know that is harmed. We will be examining our legal options.”

The bill has brought out the worst in some lawmakers, the New Civil Rights Movement reports:

In a townhall meeting known as a “legislative crackerbarrel,” one South Dakota lawmaker chose some very pointed language to defend a proposed bill that would allow government-funded discrimination against LGBT families and other couples seeking to adopt children.
Republican State Senator Phil Jensen, who believes adoption agencies should have the right to discriminate against LGBT families asked, “Should a known pedophile be allowed, be allowed to adopt? There are reasons this is not allowed.” Jensen later clarified his comments to NewsCenter1, saying, “The point I was making is that, there was moral judgment in that decision.”

Wisconsin
An anti-LGBTQ candidate is considering a run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the only member of the LGBTQ community serving in the upper chamber, Wisconsin Gazette reports:

Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir says she was seriously considering running for U.S. Senate before U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy announced he would not be a candidate.
And with the news that he’s out, she is moving forward with evaluating whether to get in. But she says there’s no timeline for when she will make a final decision.
Vukmir lives in Brookfield and has been in the state Legislature since 2003. She is one of several Republicans considering a Senate run next year against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
An evangelical Christian, the state senator has a history of anti-gay rhetoric and collusion with Wisconsin Family Action, the state’s leading opponent of same-sex marriage and reproductive freedom.
In 2010, a year which saw a spate of headline-grabbing suicides by LGBT teens who’d been bullied, Vukmir conspired with WFA to derail the Legislature’s attempt to add anti-bullying language to a school security bill. Julaine Appling, who heads WFA, fiercely opposed the change, because it sought to protect all students from persecution, including LGBT students.
In a Jan. 12, 2010, e-mail, Appling told Vukmir that she was just “checking in” about some testimony that her organization presented characterizing the bullying provision as “dangerous.”
Appling gave her “guarantee” that the provision was being promoted by pro-gay groups, by which she meant it was insupportable.

A PAC is attacking Sen. Baldwin’s sexuality as it tries to draft a Milwaukee sheriff to run against her and in the process has played loose with the facts, Politifact Wisconsin reports:

Restore American Freedom and Liberty goes personal on the Wisconsin Democrat as part of what it says is an effort to draft conservative Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. to run against her in 2018.
In a fundraising email revealed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Feb. 16, 2017, the group calls Baldwin a “pervert” and “disgusting.” It also uses extreme language in claiming Baldwin “wants to require children starting at age 5 to learn about gay sex!”
That claim caught our attention.

Restore American Freedom and Liberty says Baldwin “wants to require children starting at age 5 to learn about gay sex!”
The group did not reply to our requests for information that would back the statement. And we could not find any evidence that Baldwin supports such a requirement.
If information surfaces that was available when the group made its claim and it is relevant, we could reconsider this fact check. But in the meantime, we rate the statement False.

A Wisconsin LGBTQ activist was elected secretary to the DNC, the Washington Blade reports:

In addition to electing a new chair, the Democratic National Committee on Saturday elected as secretary a gay Democrat who years ago had the distinction of being youngest person ever elected to organization.
Jason Rae was elected in a four-way race for the position of secretary, which includes serving as the DNC’s official record-keeper as well as keeper of the party’s relationships with members.
Among Rae’s duties are maintaining official records, coordinating correspondence and communicating with DNC members on business to be considered at meetings. As part of these tasks, Rae is charged with working with the National Archives to preserve records and official documents.
Additionally, Rae will have an official role with at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, publishing the Official Convention Proceedings and serving as secretary for the convention itself.
In 2004, Rae at age 17 was the youngest person ever elected to the Democratic National Committee, beating out a state legislator and the president of the state’s firefighters’ union were among the losing candidates for the position. He came out as gay to fellow DNC members in 2007.

The panel at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is urging transgender-inclusive insurance coverage for university employees, the Capital Times reports:

A commitment to equity demands that insurance for University of Wisconsin-Madison employees cover transgender health care, said a special campus committee earlier this month.
“Excluding transgender people from receiving transition-related care is arbitrary and discriminatory,” the Ad Hoc Committee on Equitable and Inclusive Health Care said in a report delivered to the University Committee on Feb. 13.
The ad hoc committee recommended that a separate insurance pool be set up at UW-Madison and a rider be purchased to supplement state health insurance to cover the cost of transgender healthcare.
The ad hoc committee was formed by the University Committee at the urging of the Committee for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People in the University, said Amy Wendt, chair of the University Committee and professor of engineering. GLBTQ committee representatives hope to meet soon with Laurent Heller, vice chancellor for finance and administration, and human resources executives to discuss ways to implement the coverage, Wendt said.

A Republican lawmaker says he will re-introduce an anti-transgender bill this session, WBAY reports:

Republican state Rep. Jesse Kremer says he likely will re-introduce a bill to force public school students to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex at birth.
Kremer said Wednesday he’s likely to bring the bill back even though President Donald Trump intends to revoke federal guidelines that tell public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity.
Kremer says he may have to pass a state law because presidential administrations change and states need to provide “greater protection for our school districts.”
The bill died last session amid opposition from transgender students.

Iowa
A transgender high school student was forced by their school district to erase “Love Trumps Hate” from his arm, North Iowa Today reports:

Today, on the 48th anniversary of its landmark free speech case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Schools, the ACLU of Iowa announced that it is representing a Newton High School transgender student who was taken to the principal’s office for writing “love trumps hate”on his arm.
The sophomore, a minor whose name the ACLU is not sharing to protect his privacy, was in teacher Brian Smith’s class on November 14, 2016, when the teacher observed that he had written “love trumps hate” on his arm and repeatedly referred to him as “girl.” The student offered to wash it off, but Smith said he didn’t know if the student would be required to wash it off and instead escorted him to the assistant principal’s office. The assistant principal, Dave Kalkhoff, told the student he’d have to wash it off or leave school grounds. Rather than face discipline, the student washed the message off his arm.
Kalkhoff further told the student that as assistant principal, he does not talk to students about politics and students should not talk about politics, either. But this was a misrepresentation of students’ fundamental free speech rights.

The Des Moines Register has more:

The ACLU of Iowa is demanding an apology for a transgender student in Newton they say was improperly prevented from expressing a political message and subsequently called “girl” by a teacher, despite coming out as a boy two years prior.
The sophomore wrote “love trumps hate” on his arm but was forced to either wash it off or leave school, which would have resulted in disciplinary actions, the ACLU wrote in a letter to the Newton school district. During an exchange, a gym teacher twice told the student, who identifies as a boy, “don’t be drawing on yourself, girl.”
While the incident happened in November, the ACLU sent the letter Friday, just two days after the Trump administration withdrew federal guidance on how transgender students should be treated in public schools.
The letter also coincides with the 48th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, which affirmed students’ First Amendment right to free speech in school.
“The irony is not lost on us, a half-century later. Students are still fighting the same fundamental battle for freedom of speech,” said Veronica Fowler, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Iowa. She added: “It was clearly a disrespectful and harassing thing to do to this student.”
Newton schools, located about 30 miles east of Des Moines, acknowledged the ACLU letter. Superintendent Bob Callaghan told the Register that the district is “committed to providing its students with a safe and positive learning environment.”

A man sent death threats to a transgender student in Nevada, KCRG reports:

A man who allegedly threatened to kill and brand a transgender student at Nevada High School has now been told he can not contact the school anymore.
Mondell Olson, of Ames, was told he can no longer call any of the buildings in the Nevada Community School District. Olson was arrested last week for allegedly harassing and leaving voicemail messages about a transgender student at the high school.
The no contact order against Olson was slightly altered Thursday, after it was decided that the original order from last week was too broad.
Officials at Nevada High School immediately called police last week when they heard the threatening voicemail messages. Now, the court decided those calls should never happen again.
Mondell Olson quietly entered the Story County Courthouse Thursday afternoon.
Court documents show Olson faces two charges of Harassment in the 1st Degree, for allegedly leaving voicemail messages at Nevada High School earlier this month. The first message, left on February 10th said, “a transgender student would be killed if continued to be allowed to go to school.” The other message, left on February 14th said, “a transgender student would be branded” on their private parts.

We Are Iowa has more:

A man who allegedly threatened to kill and brand a transgender student at Nevada High School has now been told he can not contact the school anymore.
Mondell Olson, of Ames, was told he can no longer call any of the buildings in the Nevada Community School District. Olson was arrested last week for allegedly harassing and leaving voicemail messages about a transgender student at the high school.
The no contact order against Olson was slightly altered Thursday, after it was decided that the original order from last week was too broad.
Officials at Nevada High School immediately called police last week when they heard the threatening voicemail messages. Now, the court decided those calls should never happen again.
Mondell Olson quietly entered the Story County Courthouse Thursday afternoon.
Court documents show Olson faces two charges of Harassment in the 1st Degree, for allegedly leaving voicemail messages at Nevada High School earlier this month. The first message, left on February 10th said, “a transgender student would be killed if continued to be allowed to go to school.” The other message, left on February 14th said, “a transgender student would be branded” on their private parts.
Olson also faces a separate charge of Harassment in the 3rd Degree, for allegedly sending an inappropraite text to a teacher.
“An initial appearance was held on February 16, 2017,” said Hon. Steven Van Marel, the judge presiding over Thursday’s hearing. “At that time, the court entered an order restricting contact between the defendant and the Nevada community school buildings, staff, students and parents.”

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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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