Stu Whitney looks at the South Dakota Legislature’s willingness to stigmatize and deny equality to people who don’t look or love the way their Ward-and-June morality says they should and cries shame on us:
For South Dakota, though, there is no time to wait. There are bills in circulation that reflect the way in which we choose to treat people in this state, and how we wish to be viewed.
There has been quite a bit of discussion about keeping college graduates here at home, luring professionals to our cities, preparing South Dakota for the transition from an older, rural demographic to one that might brighten our future.
What kind of culture do we want to promote? One that sends a frightened transgender kid into a makeshift bathroom, refuses service to a same-sex couple, declines a promotion to an unmarried pregnant woman?
Pushing an agenda of discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom” is an irresponsible use of power, as is distorting the notion of what many South Dakotans consider the word “Christian” to mean. Allowing evangelical outsiders to tell us how to treat people? We’ve always been better than that.
Of course, in a representative democracy, silence can be deafening. Demanding sound judgment and basic decency from public officials is the job of citizens (and media), and South Dakota becomes more remote and irrelevant if our voice falters [Stu Whitney, “Shame on You, South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.02.06].
At the crackerbarrels this morning, Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) calls last summer’s marriage-equality ruling “fluff.” Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) defends the Legislature’s war on transgender students by saying, “I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are” and says transgender people “should receive mental treatment.” Rep. Mark Willadsen (R-11/Sioux Falls) calls transgender people “unfortunate.” Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls) calls transgender people “he/she/whatever“.
As long as South Dakota treats any citizen as a “whatever,” South Dakota will deserve its shame.