South Dakota
A transgender South Dakotan is suing the state over anti-transgender health plan discrimination, the Argus Leader reports:

A South Dakota state employee is challenging the legality of a provision in the state health plan that bars medical services for gender transformations.

Terri Bruce argues the South Dakota State Employee Health Plan violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the 1964 Civil Rights Act by denying him medically necessary care for gender dysphoria. Bruce, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Rapid City lawyer James Leach, is challenging the state in federal court.

Bruce is a transgender man who has worked for the South Dakota State Historical Society Archaeological Research Center since 2005. He was scheduled to receive a mastectomy in June 2016 as a medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, according to his lawsuit, but the state health plan denied the treatment. His appeal was denied because the plan bars services or treatments for gender transformations, even if deemed medically necessary by a physician.

That treatment, however, would have been made available to a man who had been assigned that gender at birth, the lawsuit says, meaning the plan discriminates against transgender employees, denying “him a valuable employee benefit that is provided to every other state employee,” the lawsuit says.

Brookings leads the pack in South Dakota on the Municipal Equality Index, KELO reports:

A national gay rights group is out with it’s annual ranking of how South Dakota cities treat the concerns of LGBT people.

Brookings is tops at 72 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. Sioux Falls ranks second with 63 on the scale of zero to 100.

Other cities were far behind. Both Mitchell and Pierre scored zeros.

The City of Sioux Falls is holding a news conference on Friday to discuss how the city improved its score from the year before, and to say that more work needs to be done.

The Index examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are. It ranks in five areas from law enforcement to non-discrimination laws.

Iowa
Ames held its first Pridefest last week, Iowa State Daily reports:

Clad in pride flags and ponchos, members of the Ames community and more gathered to celebrate the inaugural Ames Pridefest at Bandshell Park despite rain showers.

Ames Pride, partnered with the Ames Public Library, created the first annual Ames Pridefest in the hopes of building community. Over 400 people came, bringing visitors from Ames Middle School, churches and health organizations as well as others together.

Joel Hochstein, chair of Ames Pride, said the event was an overt place for folks to be, exist and celebrate each other as well as themselves in the heart of the city.

“I’m really excited to see Ames start this,” said Morgan Amos, a 2017 graduate of Ames High School.

Amos sported a rainbow flag given to her by her godmother. For Amos, it shows that she isn’t afraid to be herself. Pride gives Amos a place to express that.

The Department of Justice is getting involved in the investiagtion of the murder of Kendarie Johnson, the Des Moines Register reports:

A prominent civil rights attorney with the Department of Justice has joined the prosecution in the trial of a man charged with killing a gender-fluid Burlington, Iowa, high school student last year.
Christopher J. Perras of the civil rights division’s criminal section was officially installed in documents filed in Iowa court Friday. He will aid Des Moines County Attorney Amy K. Beavers and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan in the case against Jorge “Lumni” Sanders-Galvez, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Kedarie Johnson.
“The federal authorities are investigating the case as a federal hate crime, and so they would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down,” Beavers said Friday when asked about the decision to add Perras.
Defense attorney Curtis Dial said Friday that Perras won’t “have any effect on the way we handle the defense.”

The Des Moines Register recaps the facts behind Johnson’s murder:

On an unseasonably cold Wednesday evening last year, 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson stopped by a close friend’s house to try on bras.
As the two talked, the normally jovial Burlington High School student shared that he was scared of a man named “Lumni.” He said he’d noticed a red car following him that day; he wasn’t sure who was behind the wheel.
Kedarie didn’t stay long at his friend’s house. He asked to borrow a few of the bras he’d modeled, and the friend, 15 at the time, obliged. Kedarie tucked the undergarments into his black and blue school backpack and braced against the biting wind as he walked into the night alone.
Their quick exchange was one of the last times Kedarie Johnson was seen alive.
At about 11:36 p.m. March 2, 2016, Burlington police found Kedarie’s body, his chest riddled with bullets, discarded in the wild prairie overgrowth of a quiet alley.

KCCI reports on the latest developments of the case:

The trial for one of two men charged with killing a gender non-conforming teenager will be moved from Mount Pleasant to Keokuk.
District Judge Mary Ann Brown said Thursday she’s changing the venue for Jorge Sanders-Galvez as a “proactive step” to confront implicit racial bias.

Brown says data indicates that South Lee County will likely produce a more diverse jury pool than Henry County.

Sanders-Galvez is set to stand trial Tuesday in the March 2016 slaying of Burlington High School student Kedarie Johnson, who alternated between male and female personas. Another man is also charged but will stand trial separately.

Sanders-Galvez is Latino and black. His defense asked to move the trial out of Henry County, where only 11 out of 2,100 potential jurors in the last four years identified as either race.

Orange City also held its first Pride celebration last weekend, the Sioux City Journal reports:

Despite a wave of negative social media comments, OC Pride found little opposition in Orange City.
Organizer Cody Bauer said stories previewing the three-day festival that celebrates members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community had garnered a lot of negative comments online. But mum was the word for opponents in the conservative town Saturday.
“There has been no physical presence of negativity. It has all been online and on social media,” Bauer said during a storytelling event where OC Pride goers shared tales and struggles they face being LGBTQ.
It was the first-ever OC Pride event in Orange City, traditionally a Dutch Reformed community. Based on the turnout and feedback, plans are in the works to have the festival again next year after more than 200 people came from places as far away as Arizona, Bauer said.
“I think it is kind of overwhelming,” he said. “We were not expecting a major turnout.”

Wisconsin
Wisconsin cities fared slightly better than average on the Municipal Equality Index, the Gazette reports:

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute released its sixth annual Municipal Equality Index, assessing LGBTQ equality in 506 cities across the nation, including seven in Wisconsin.
The average score for cities in Wisconsin is 59 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 57.

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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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