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No Country for Gay Men: Pierre Scores Low on LGBT Equality

Dog bites man: South Dakota isn't a nice place to be gay.

The Human Rights Campaign has issued a new report calculating a "municipal equality index" for 137 cities across the U.S. The group didn't include Sioux Falls or Rapid City, but they did include Pierre along with all of the state capitals. The result: Pierre is the ninth least friendly place for gays, lesbians, and other sexual non-traditionalists.

Our capital scored a 13 out of 100. Pierre bombs because of the complete absence of state and local non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipal employment protections, and pro-equality leadership. Pierre's only points come from its school district's anti-bullying policy and local law enforcement's reporting of hate crimes (though interestingly, the four hate crimes reported by Pierre in 2010 did not target individuals for their sexuality).

Likely dragging Pierre's score down even further: South Dakota's unwillingness to pronounce its capital's French name correctly.

Governing maps the data; HRC offers the full report and individual city scorecards in PDF.


  1. Steve Sibson 2012.12.03

    "South Dakota's unwillingness to pronounce its capital's French name correctly."

    Mow unAmerican, unless you want to argue that the American Revolution was about the French attacking the British.

  2. Jessie E 2012.12.03

    Here in Pierre, we honor the voyageur's pronunciation. Besides we enjoy the sheer "orneriousness."

    Back to the main topic, is it correct to assume that Pierre's low rating is the result of having to shoulder the low rating of the entire state? Is there actual data on attitudes, here or in other SD cities? Where are the LGBT support or action groups? Any in the central region at all?

  3. Tom Emanuel 2012.12.03

    I'd be interested to see what similar numbers would look like for the Rapid City/Northern Hills region. My little brother is transgender, and I know he's much happier in Albuquerque now - although that might have as much to do with the "big(ger) city" atmosphere as anything.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.12.04

    A Sioux Falls advocacy group is a long way from Pierre. But that isolation makes Pierre a tough place for everyone to live, not just the LGBT community.

    Tom, what is your brother finding better about Albuquerque? Are there just more folks like himself there? I wonder: just how much of his increased comfort comes simply from being someplace where he's less tied down by previous associations and thus being able to define his own identiy more freely?

  5. Dougal 2012.12.04

    Maybe all you need to know about Pierre's humane views is found downtown on S. Pierre Street. Go to the top of the hill at the north end of the main drag and there's a historical marker proclaiming Hughes County's "first and only hanging" when James H. Bell was snatched from his jail cell and lynched by a mob. They strung him up on a ladder which leaned against the flag pole. Salute!

    Head downhill to the south end of the street and there's a historical marker in front of the American Legion Post proclaiming another lynching of some trader. In between, there's a sign on how to read cow brands titled "Pierre Was a Cowtown – Reading Brands.”

    Considering its past and present culture (or lack thereof), if they don't lynch you for being gay in Pierre, maybe it's a step forward. Maybe it's not the most sensitive community.

  6. John Hess 2012.12.04

    Albuquerque has a LGBT community center called Common Bond, active social groups, gay pride events like most urban areas do and gay bars of course. When I lived there people were friendly. They hug a lot down there. I mean lots of hugging. Was uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it! There's a real cultural difference.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.12.04

    It would be interesting and instructive to travel the country and compile a hug index.

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