The human rights rally in Rapid City appears to drawn a good crowd to protest Senate Bill 128, the Legislature's latest assault on civil rights. My on-the-scene observers play the conservatives, estimating that about 150 people came to Main Street Square to defend equality for citizens of all sexual orientations; the Rapid City Journal says about 200; KOTA TV says "hundreds" attended:
"We're tired of things like this happening in South Dakota and no one was fighting back," said President of Black Hills State University Gay-Straight Alliance, Joseph Geyer. "And we decided that it was our time to finally fight back."
SB128 aims to protect businesses and individuals regarding free speech. If passed, it would allow the refusal of services to individuals or couples based on sexual orientation.
But some say that's unconstitutional and unfair.
"How do you tell when someone is of a different sexual orientation?" asked onlooker Kameron Ward [Joe McHale, "Equal Rights Rally Held in Rapid City," KOTA TV, 2014.02.17].
The Legislature's yahoolery may be galvanizing ongoing activism to defend equality in South Dakota:
David Patton, board president of the Black Hills Center for Equality, announced at the rally that a town hall meeting on equal rights in South Dakota will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 13 at the Moose Lodge at 841 E. St. Patrick St. in Rapid City.
"The time has come for us to move forward for full equality," Patton told the crowd [Joe O'Sullivan, "Hundreds Show up for Equal Rights Rally in Downtown Rapid City," Rapid City Journal, 2014.02.17].
One protester at the rally held a sign saying that her baby would be born in South Dakota this year and that she wants a better South Dakota for her child. Could that sentiment motivate a grassroots backlash that will outlast SB 128 and bring not just GLBT activists but young people in general into action to fight for equality and progressive values in the November election?
The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing SB 128 this morning. Stay tuned.