Human Rights Watch came to Sioux Falls a couple weeks ago to release a report showing the discrimination that LGBT youth face in South Dakota and other states. Now the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation provide the State Equality Index showing things may get worse for LGBT South Dakotans before they get better.
South Dakota is one of 28 states in the State Equality Index’s lowest category, in which LGBT citizens are still struggling to reach basic equality:
Most of these states, including Arizona, North Carolina, South Dakota and Florida, have many laws that undermine LGBTQ equality, from those that criminalize HIV and sodomy, to measures allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people. None have non-discrimination laws that explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity protections; few have hate crime laws with those protections. LGBTQ advocates largely work to defeat bad bills and pass municipal protections for LGBTQ people [Mark Snyder, “Report Finds Opponents of LGBTQ Equality Are Ramping up State Efforts to Sanction Discrimination,” Equality Federation, 2016.12.14].
The State Equality Index scorecard for South Dakota shows we have none of the laws on non-discrimination, parenting, hate crimes, or health and safety that HRC views as promoting LGBT equality. We have just two of HRC’s ten positive youth laws: measures dealing with cyberbullying and transgender inclusion in sports. Certain religious paranoiacs in the Legislature and the public may undermine that inclusion with another transgender potty bill. Such anti-LGBT bills have surged in the last three years, and while Donald Trump’s Presidential intentions on LGBT policy are unclear, the Human Rights Campaign thinks Trump is opening the door for an even bigger surge of anti-LGBT legislation from conservative activists and legislators who hear chants of “Make America Straight Again.” Trump’s clearest signal that it’s open season on LGBT Americans may be his VP, corporate Christian theocrat Mike Pence.
I know we Democrats are supposed to stop fretting about social justice and refocus on the white working class. That premise is flawed on fact—Hillary Clinton talked all the time jobs and the economy—and on practical, moral policy—social justice is economic justice. There are plenty of LGBT white working class folks, and they are probably having a harder time economically than their straight counterparts. (Hey, you try making a buck while folks around you are giving you skunk eye and telling you where to pee.) Let’s be the party that includes everybody in the American dream and works to remove unnecessary and un-American barriers of bullying and discrimination to education and economic opportunity.