South Dakota
Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether has joined Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, the Argus Leader reports:

Mayor Mike Huether has signed on to a national campaign to bolster anti-discrimination efforts for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
In a news release Thursday, Sioux Falls City Hall announced Huether is among 275 mayors from 48 states and Washington, D.C. to join Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, a bipartisan coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to securing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in all levels of government.
Heuther is the first mayor from South Dakota to join the coalition.
“Protecting people equally and fighting against discrimination are American values, South Dakota values, and yes, Sioux Falls values,” Huether said in a statement. “We have made gains in this effort, but we also have more work to do to ensure equal treatment for all people living in and visiting our great city.”

A post on South DaCola gave the news a half-hearted applause with the title: “It only took 7 years and 8 months, but Mayor Huether now supports LGBT rights”:

Okay, that isn’t fair. He did try to monkey around with some executive orders a few years ago. While I think it is great he signed on with this program, I will also say it is easy to support controversial social issues when you have one foot out the door. That’s Mike, always ‘Getting stuff done’.

North Dakota
Fargo-Moorhead has a new gay pastor, the Fargo Forum reports:

It’s a group not fully accounted for, yet growing: openly gay pastors.
In the past two years, Fargo-Moorhead has welcomed two.
Pastor Joe Larson was called to lead St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Fargo in June 2016, becoming North Dakota’s first openly gay pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, Pastor Robert Drake was officially installed as the first openly gay pastor of Moorhead’s First Presbyterian Church.
Both pastors are married, Minnesota natives and second-career pastors, meaning they previously had other professions. Drake, 48, was a carpenter and construction foreman, and Larson, 61, worked in social services.
They believe this is where God has called them to serve, but their journeys here differ, largely due to a changing political environment that in recent years has become more accepting of those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and/or queer.
“The reality is within the church there has always been LGBTQ pastors,” Larson said. “Sometimes they led secretively closeted lives. It’s just a different perspective where a church makes the conscious choice to call someone like us.”

Iowa
A judge has allowed an anti-LGBTQ Christian student group to return to campus after the University of Iowa revoked the group’s registration, the Press Citizen reports:

A federal judge has ordered the University of Iowa to temporarily reinstate a conservative Christian group as a registered student organization, saying the university is denying the group its freedom of speech rights.
Business Leaders in Christ sued after the university in Iowa City revoked its campus registration in November, citing the group’s denial of a leadership position to a gay student who wouldn’t affirm a statement of faith rejecting homosexuality. The university says it respects religious rights but doesn’t tolerate discrimination.

According to The Gazette, the group is thrilled that it’s allowed to return to campus despite violating the University of Iowa’s non-discrimination policies:

A previously-barred University of Iowa student organization was among more than 160 involved in an on-campus recruitment fair Wednesday after a federal judge on Tuesday forced the university to allow it to participate.
Business Leaders in Christ, which UI administrators deregistered in November following accusations it discriminated against an openly gay member, looked like other groups showcased at the Iowa Memorial Union fair — with banner, cookies, and members fielding questions.
“We’re Business Leaders in Christ,” Jake Estell, president of the group that goes by BLinC, told one student who lingered near his table. “We just host a bible study basically every week and we talk about how the bible interacts … Would you like a cookie?”
“I am here for a cookie,” the student said.
More than halfway into the two-hour fair, Estell said 12 people had signed up to receive more information about the group, which is hovering at 10 members right now. He thought maybe six of those would materialize into actual members.
“We are definitely excited and thrilled to be back in this setting,” Estell said. “This is definitely where we are most comfortable.”

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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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