Speaking of religion and bullying, House State Affairs showed a modicum of decency last week and killed House Bill 1220, certain conservatives' continued attempt to disguise anti-LGBT legislation in freedom of religion.

Eight committee Republicans joined two Democrats in deferring HB 1220 to the 41st day, leading right-wing blogger Bob Ellis to shout that Republicans hate religion. (At least South Dakota Republicans; Indiana Senate Republicans voted unanimously for a similar pro-discrimination bill last week.)

Ellis notes that Equality South Dakota did not testify against HB 1220. Curtis Price explains EqSD's absence from House State Affairs last week:

Equality South Dakota and many of our allies strongly opposed this bill, and, in coordination with others, encouraged our members to track it through our Facebook group.

Equality South Dakota did not testify on HB 1220 since the way it was written the bill did not directly address LGBT issues. It was felt if EqSD would testify, this would bring attention that this is a LGBT related bill and thereby hinder the possibility of killing it [Curtis Price, "HB 1220 Killed," Equality South Dakota blog, 2015.02.28].

I understand the tactical decision, though I cringe at the fact that LGBT is such a dirty acronym in South Dakota that an equal rights organization's best tactic on vile legislation is silence. Bob Ellis views EqSD's tactics as more of the nefarious gay agenda luring unsuspecting dupes into something like political rape:

The homosexual movement has learned that if it can get “useful idiots” in more mainstream organizations to do its dirty work for it, the odds of success for their agenda are much better than if people actually realize the investment of the homosexual agenda in the issue [Bob Ellis, "Religious Freedom Again Treated with Contempt by South Dakota ‘Republicans’," American Clarion, 2015.03.02].

The "useful idiots" in this case are the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, the Board of Regents, and the Department of Corrections, all of whom testified that HB 1220 is not just unnecessary but harmful to basic governmental functions, not to mention civil rights.

I suppose I'm just another useful idiot who hasn't noticed the gay-agendeers pulling his strings, but as a member of the atheist minority in South Dakota, permit me to remind Bob that "decent, law-abiding God fearing people" are not under any "withering attack." Christianity is not about to disappear. Neither, alas, is Bob's hateful theology.


Yesterday I mentioned that a few groups are brewing up ideas to help the Democratic Party regain its footing in South Dakota. Among the party-building ideas I haven't mentioned yet is to take advantage of the energy of existing groups with a natural (if unstated for 501(c)3 purposes) affinity for the Demcoratic platform.

Among such logical sources of strength are the Black Hills Center for Equality and its allies, who are hosting the first annual Dakotas Equality Summit January 16–17 in Rapid City:

The Black Hills Center for Equality (BHCFE), in partnership with numerous equality groups in South Dakota, is hosting the first annual Dakotas Equality Summit on the 16th and 17th of January at the Holiday Inn Rushmore Plaza in Rapid City, South Dakota. According to the BHCFE, the objective of this conference is to create an opportunity for LGBT individuals, families, and allies, as well as any interested person, to come together for fellowship, learning and growing in their everyday lives.

A social will begin at 6:00 pm MST, on Friday, January 16th with music and appetizers. On Saturday, January 17th beginning 9:00 am, David Patton, BHCFE Board President, will kick off the summit followed by breakout sessions focusing on building support systems, understanding stress, workplace and life protections, campaign involvement and many more. That evening our keynote speaker, Judy Shepard will take the stage to share her inspirational story of how the tragic loss of her son lead her to begin advocacy.

The registration fee to participate is $40 through December 31, 2014 and will increase to $50 on January 1, 2015. Registration includes admission to the pre-event social on Friday, with complimentary appetizers and music, breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday, as well as daycare during the breakout sessions, admission to the keynote speaker, and the after-event celebration Saturday evening. A limited number of volunteer participants can register paying only $15 [Black Hills Center for Equality, press release, 2014.11.11].

The Dakotas Equality Summit is not and should not be a partisan affair. Every South Dakotan interested in defending liberty and equality has a stake in the topics that summit participants will discuss.

But this event will also provide Democratic reformers a valuable opportunity to network with potential allies in the fight for equality right on the doorstep of homophobic Senator Phil Jensen's legislative district. (Check out the map: Rushmore Plaza sits right at the border of the chunk of North Rapid gerrymandered into District 33.) Mark the calendar, Dems, and go make useful friends!

* * *

Mike Rounds and John Thune holding hands, Banner image, SDGOP spin blog Dakota War College, snapped 2014.11.12

Banner image, SDGOP spin blog Dakota War College, snapped 2014.11.12

But forgive me if I try to make LGBT equality sound like a purely partisan issue. After all, even the most rabid Republican spinsters agree that two men ought to be able to hold hands in front of an American flag and be recognized as real and equal South Dakotans.


...and smut peddlers.

Speaking of subversive activity, the Center for Equality is hosting the third annual Sioux Falls Pride Festival today from noon to 5 p.m. at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls. Promoting "a vibrant positive interaction within the community through advocacy, education, visibility and participation of LGBT and Allied members" (Allied! There's the label I can use!), the Pride Festival will feature music from Mike & Jay, Freewryte, Kat Jax, and Rick Weiland. Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether will offer opening remarks; visitors can also hear speeches from the newlyweds leading the lawsuit to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban, Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn, and their lawyer, Joshua Newville.

In the juxtaposition of the day, the Pride Festival will offer a kids' zone complete with face-painting and, starting at 3 p.m., an all-ages drag show what I'm sure will be more remarkably painted faces. When you get done outside, you can head to the Icon Lounge downtown for the official Pride After Party (there will be no kids' zone here).

I'm mostly excited about this event. A number of sponsors are: Wells Fargo Bank, the Sioux Falls Free Thinkers, Midcontinent Communications, Alphagraphics, Great Plains Zoo, and the New Joy Community Church, a Sioux Falls United Church of Christ congregation that preaches extravagant love for everyone, including Socialists.

Alas, Pride Festival sponsors include Sioux Falls smut shop Annabelle's, which will have a booth at the event along with their Tea sex-commoditization counterpart Olivia's. I don't know if Annabelle's and Olivia's will be displaying their standard masturbation aids, but my tolerance has limits. Inclusivity and equality are cool; the objectification of sex is not.

While I wholeheartedly support the overarching message of the Pride Festival, I cannot in good conscience take my child to an event where smut-peddlers are present, and I must recommend that other responsible parents not subject their children to that particular negative influence.

West River, you'll get your dose of Pride next month: the Black Hills Center for Equality is hosting a full weekend of LGBT events July 11 through 13.


The South Dakota State University Students' Association voted Monday to cheer the university administration's decision to bring Chick-Fil-A to campus and make its oppressed homophobic minority feel more included. The student senators then voted against a resolution criticizing dishonest anti-gay rhetoric and reaffirming the SA's commitment to addressing LGBT issues.

I fully fry those chickens in my latest South Dakota Magazine column. But for this week's great moment in journalism, I turn to Marcus Traxler of the SDSU Collegian:

Sen. Austin VanderWal, of the College of Engineering, said he didn't understand how Chick-fil-A was being hateful with their donations, which drew a frustrated response from [Senator Hassan] Ali, who buried his head in his hands [Marcus Traxler, "SA Votes to Support University Decision on Chick-Fil-A," SDSU Collegian, September 17, 2012].

I feel for you, brother. Keep up the good fight, Hassan!


Deaf LGBT activists are feeling spanked by the National Association of the Deaf.

Let's review: earlier this year, Governor Dennis Daugaard had an invitation to speak at the NAD's biennial conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in July. Deaf LGBT activists expressed their distaste at the prospect of being lectured by a governor who presides over a yahoo state that bans same-sex marriage. Governor Daugaard withdrew from the conference, claiming schedule conflicts. (On the day he was scheduled to speak to the NAD, July 6, Governor Daugaard spoke at the 927th Engineer Detachment's deployment ceremony in Sioux Falls.) The NAD expressed its concern about making anyone feel marginalized, and deaf LGBT activists celebrated.

However small that victory, last month, the National Association of the Deaf reversed it:

Catching LGBT advocates by surprise, delegates at the following NAD conference moved to extend another invitation to Gov. Daugaard to speak at the next conference. The second surprise: This motion passed unanimously! Any progress made in educating the NAD on LGBT-equality needs amounted only to an elaborate illusion of our own making. The supposed support for gay marriage by the NAD revealed itself to be a ruse to distract us. When it comes to action, the NAD have shown that they're going in a different direction [Courtney O'Donnell, "Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Organization Thumbs Its Nose at LGBT People a Second Time," Huffington Post, August 8, 2012].

I assume this means Governor Daugaard is invited to speak at the 2014 conference in Atlanta, July 1 through July 5. Hmm... election year, July 4th parades... I'm thinking the NAD might be hard-pressed to get Governor Daugaard to give up valuable campaign time to spend the holiday week in Atlanta... unless, of course, Gordon Howie beats him in the June primary.

I'm still uneasy with the idea that deaf LGBT activist would reject a meeting with Governor Daugaard just because he's from a state that practices ignorant, discriminatory politics. Maybe it's easy for progressives of various stripes to write off and isolate South Dakota. But if South Dakota's politics are messed up, we local libs could use a little help fixing them. Don't shun or boycott our leaders when they visit; engage them. Look for opportunities for conversation that could draw those leaders and South Dakota as a whole toward the social progress it needs.


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