South Dakota
South Dakota’s governor has signed a bill that allows faith-based adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQ people, South Dakota Public Radio reports:

Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed a bill that allows faith-based adoption agencies to use their discretion when placing children…

Daugaard says the bill is legislation that’s been distributed to multiple states. He points to language in the bill about tax credits…

“But, very clearly that would have no applicability in South Dakota because we have no income tax. Nor do we have any property tax credits or other tax credits that are available for those kinds of situations,” Daugaard says. “So, this language was written to be used in multiple places. Maybe it’s in response to concerns that have risen in other places.”

Daugaard says child placement agencies that receive state money for adoption and foster services may not discriminate.

However, critics say the law will allow discrimination against couples who don’t align with an agency’s religious beliefs.

The ACLU slammed the signing of the bill in a press release:

“Today’s signing of S.B. 149 is deeply troubling not only because it opens the door to widespread discrimination against LGBT people and children in South Dakota, but because it’s only one of many bills moving through state legislatures across the country that authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT Americans,” said James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBT Project. “These laws run contrary to one of our core American values: the rule of law, which means we are all held to and protected by the same laws. These exemptions encourage people to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow based on their religious beliefs.”

While South Dakota becomes the first state in 2017 to enact anti-LGBT legislation into law, other state legislatures across the country are aggressively pursuing similar measures, including Texas (S.B. 892 and H.B. 1805), Oklahoma (H.B. 1507), and Alabama (S.B. 145), among others.

“South Dakota just enacted the first anti-LGBT legislation of 2017, shamefully targeting LGBT parents and vulnerable kids,” said Laura E. Durso, vicepresident of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “S.B. 149 allows religiously-affiliated foster care and adoption agencies to turn away qualified LGBT parents and single moms who simply want to start families and give young people a safe, loving home. Same-sex couples are six times as likely to foster than different-sex couples are, and this bill proves once again that opponents of equality are happy to put children at risk and deny them permanent homes to further their anti-LGBT agenda.”

Local and national child welfare experts sent letters opposing S.B. 149, including The Adoption Exchange, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of Social Workers, and Voice for Adoption. This was in addition to family law experts including South Dakota pediatricians, and local and national LGBT rights organizations including the Movement Advancement Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and more.

“We’re deeply disappointed by Governor Daugaard’s decision to green light Senate Bill 149,” said Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “This discriminatory legislation takes South Dakota in the wrong direction, and sends the message that our leaders are more concerned with the desires of religious agencies than the rights of individuals and children in our state.”

Wisconsin
The Daily Beast notes that for some transgender Wisconsinites face a “detransitioning catch 22”:

When Donald Trump was elected president, the first thing Cary Gabriel Costello’s wife said was, “There goes our chance at transition health care coverage.”
Friends of the Wisconsin couple, both of whom are transgender, thought that they were overreacting, Costello told The Daily Beast. Some naïvely advised them to “stop overdramatizing,” reassuring them that President Trump “isn’t going to hurt you.”
After all, didn’t he once say that Caitlyn Jenner could use the Trump Tower ladies’ room? How harmful could a man who holds up a rainbow LGBT pride flag really be?
Then, a mere twelve days after the inauguration, the dire prediction came true.
On February 1, as The Daily Beast previously reported, the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) announced that the state was reinstating a longstanding exclusion in its employee health plan on any “procedures, services, and supplies related to surgery and sex hormones associated with gender reassignment.”
“For a family like mine, with two gender transitioners who had been waiting for many years to access additional care and get coverage for our [hormone therapy], that was more than depressing,” Costello, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the director of the school’s LGBT studies program, wrote in a viral blog post about the policy change. “But at least we saw it coming.”
That exclusion had actually been lifted for thirty days before the ETF reinstated it, citing a temporary injunction issued last December on an Affordable Care Act regulation that the Obama administration interpreted as prohibiting exclusions of transition-related medical care.

A religious right group has recruited a Wisconsin photographer to sue to overturn the state’s nondiscrimination laws, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:

A Madison photographer is challenging a city ordinance and state law that her lawyers say could compel creative professionals to promote messages that violate their religious beliefs.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based conservative Christian organization, filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on Tuesday on behalf of Amy Lawson, owner of Amy Lynn Photography Studio.
The city attorney’s office said late Tuesday afternoon it had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment on it.
At stake, according to the alliance, is the freedom of creative professionals to create and publicize messages they choose without being punished and whether the government can compel creative professionals to promote political messages that violate their core beliefs.

Gov. Scott Walker has introduced a budget that would end benefits for surviving same-sex domestic partners, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

The state would discontinue state health coverage and other benefits for thousands of domestic partners of state and local workers — even those whose partners have already died, under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill.
But within hours of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that the bill would affect a handful of survivors whose partner had died, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said that wasn’t the proposal’s intent.
“We’re willing to work with the Legislature on a potential fix for this,” he said.
Evenson said the thrust of the measure is to require all state and local workers to marry if they want to receive their state benefits — a step made possible by the 2014 legalization of same-sex marriage in Wisconsin. That makes domestic partner benefits unnecessary, he said
But marriage is no longer an option for the handful of people in Wisconsin whose domestic partner has already died.
The budget bill makes an exception for the domestic partners of police and firefighters who were harmed or died while on duty, according to an analysis by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office. But otherwise, health coverage for domestic partners would end on Jan. 1, 2018.

A gay man is alleging discrimination by a Milwaukee bar, KTVQ reports:

A customer says he was singled-out for being gay, while management says they were asked to leave for being too intoxicated.
This is the conflict playing out on social media. Mi-Key’s Restaurant and Bar in Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square is at center of the discussion.
Over the past week Mi-Key’s has gotten a slew of bad reviews on Facebook alleging discrimination by security, targeting gay men.
Michael Shipman, a 21-year-old student at MATC, said he went to the bar for their dollar drink special on Wednesday night. He was dressed non-traditionally at the time, and he says he consensually kissed another man while dancing.
Soon after security approached, Shipman said.
“He said we were toxic for the environment and that we don’t fit in. So the ‘fit in’ automatically made me say ‘Oh, it’s because I’m gay’. And then yesterday, this morning actually, someone found me on Facebook because I made a review of Mi-Key’s and he said ‘The same thing just happened to me last night’,” Shipman said.

Iowa
One Iowa, the state’s LGBTQ lobby, is warning that a voter ID bill could have serious repercussions for transgender voters:

House File 516, a bill that will make photo identification a requirement for voters at the polls, is on the Iowa House floor for debate today. This bill may seem innocuous on the surface, but in fact disenfranchises many Iowa voters like people of color, people with disabilities, elderly people, and many others in the name of solving a problem (supposed voter fraud) that does not exist. Many of those people are also part of the LGBTQ community, and at One Iowa, we’re appalled that this bill would make it more difficult for them to take part in our democracy and exercise their right to vote.
Another group of voters who will face unique challenges because of this policy are transgender Iowans. Requiring a photo ID at the polls will cultivate an environment that will not only make it difficult for many transgender Iowans to vote, but potentially dangerous as well.
First, many transgender people do not have photo IDs that accurately reflect their gender. Take two of the most common photo IDs that will be accepted under the new policy: driver’s licenses and passports. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40 percent of transgender citizens who are publicly out as transgender do not have a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender, and 74 percent do not have an updated U.S. passport that accurately reflects their gender.

A high school student is working to make Des Moines Public Schools more equitable for transgender and gender nonconforming students, the Des Moines Register reports:

A Roosevelt High School student will take her campaign to have gender-neutral bathrooms installed at all of Des Moines Public Schools’ high schools to the school board Tuesday evening.
Zoey Wagner, a senior at Roosevelt, launched a petition to have DMPS install the non-gendered facilities at about 11:30 a.m. Monday and had collected more than 100 signatures by lunchtime Tuesday, she said.
Wagner said this campaign was a “natural progression for her” after the successful establishment of gender-neutral bathrooms last year at Roosevelt. Those bathrooms, which were converted from staff-only facilities to “all-gender” restrooms, are located in the library within view of the librarians.
Transgender Iowans: In the spotlight, seeking their true selves
“The non-binary or gender-nonconforming students (students that don’t identify as male or female) that have used the bathroom have told me that they felt safer in that bathroom as opposed to the gendered ones,” Wagner said. “But also students with extreme anxiety issues or autistic students use that bathroom, too, because it is a better, safer alternative for those that get sensory overload.”

Iowans rallied in Iowa City last week in support of transgender students, the Gazette reports:

Wearing a T-shirt featuring a fist-in-the-air logo and the words, “I stand with trans students,” Amanda Green explained that Sunday’s rally at the Ped Mall in Iowa City was about more than school bathrooms.
“This is not about bathrooms just like it was not about drinking fountains in the ’60s,” said Green, 36, of Hiawatha, who serves as chair of the Pride Employee Resource Group at Rockwell Collins. “This is a larger issue about saying equality is equality. That’s as simple as it gets.”
Green helped coordinate the rally, which drew more than 100 people, in response to a Feb. 22 decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to revoke landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. The move reversed a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Obama, last May, instructed public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity and not the gender listed on their birth certificate. The transgender community hailed the step as a civil rights victory.
“When we heard this legislation coming out against protections for children we thought, ‘No, no more,’ ” said Green of the Trump Administration decision. “We are taking a stand against that and we’re going to do anything we can to make it publicly visible that this is not OK. We will not go backward and we will not take protections away from children.”

The Column is a community-supported non-profit news, arts, and media organization. We depend on community support to continue the work of solid LGBT-centric journalism. If you like this article, consider visiting Give MN to make a contribution today.
SHARE
Previous articleThe Big Fat Comedy Hour debuts at Lush
Next articleFranken sends letter to Secretary DeVos demanding answers on Title IX and transgender inclusion
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.

LEAVE A REPLY