South Dakota Equality Summit 2010

By: Tamara Jeanne Urban
New Media News Correspondent
Trans-Ponder Media, Int.

The South Dakota Equality Summit 2010 was held on Wednesday Feb 17th at the state capitol Pierre. This was the 2nd annual summit on LGBT equality to be held here in SD. The summit had 35 to 40 LGBT people and allies in attendance and was about double of number that was at the 2009 summit. It started at 12 noon and ran until 7:45 pm. Speakers included representatives from nine organizations and groups: the ACLU, Equality South Dakota, The Centers for Equality, The Black Hills Center for Equality, PFLAG, EQSD PAC, The 10% Society and The Dakota T-Girls.

At last years summit a four year plan was developed to update South Dakota’s 40 year old non-discrimination law, which had not been changed since 1972. One of the results from last years summit was the introduction of HB 1144, a bill that would have amended the states non-discrimination law to include: gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran status, military status and age to the existing law. Other goals that were accomplished were: the hiring of a full time professional lobbyist and conducting a study of how the majority of South Dakotan’s feel about equal rights for LGBT people in the work place. The study was conducted by a well respected company and the results showed the there is a strong majority of the population which supports work place equality.

Sadly the day before the summit, HB 1144 was killed in committee. During the testimony on the bill, the opponents used all of the same old tactics, lies and distortions in their arguments against equality that we’ve come to expect. They of course placed almost all of their emphasis on gender identity and the bathroom issue. They quoted out of context from the Transgender Law Center’s booklet “Peeing in Peace” as part of their arguments against the bill. During their testimony, the level of ignorance about gender identity issues was glaringly obvious by the number of times that they kept confusing the terminology, repeatedly referring to gender identity as “sexual gender” as well as confusing and misusing other terms. You can listen to the testimony from the hearting on HB 1144 here: Hhe21 or download it by right clicking on the link and choosing ‘Save as’. The hearing starts at 1:14:19 and the opposition’s testimony starts at 1:39:50 on the
time line.

The main focus of this year’s summit was to refine the four year equality plan, to develop new strategies, to determine areas to focus on for the next year based on the lessons learned from the past year and to set goals for the next year. Goals set for this year are: much need fund raising, channeling those funds to support pro equality legislators and new candidates, to campaign against those legislators who votes against HB 1144 in the fall elections and to educate incumbent legislators on LGBT issues.

The idea of dropping gender identity and adopting an incremental approach (like the 2007 ENDA) were briefly discussed and quickly put aside after a clear explanation that without including the “T”, gender identity, a sexual orientation only bill would only protect straight passing LGB’s and would provide little if any to protection for effeminate gay men, butch lesbians or straight people who are perceived as not fitting into perceived gender norms.

The final 2 hours of the summit were for a dinner and reception for 40 to 45 members of the state’s legislators and included 2 candidates for governor in the up coming fall elections.