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Vermillion 4th SD Town to Create Human Rights Commission

While Representative Michael Clark (R-9/Hartford) makes excuses for racism, the Vermillion City Council creates a Human Rights Commission that explicitly repudiates Clark’s Jim Crow thinking. The ordinance creating the commission includes the following statement of policy and purpose:

(A) That discriminatory practices or unfair practices based on race, color, sex, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status, disability, marital status, military or veteran status, gender identity, or sexual orientation with respect to employment, labor union membership, housing accommodations, property rights, education, public accommodations, and public services, or any of them, tend to adversely affect the public health, safety, order, convenience, and general welfare;

(B) To declare as civil rights the rights of all persons to the fullest extent of their capacities, and without regard to race, color, sex, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status, disability, marital status, military or veteran status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, equal opportunities with respect to employment, labor union membership, housing accommodations, property rights, education, public accommodations, and public services;

(C) To prevent, prohibit, and eliminate to the extent permitted by this subchapter, any and all discriminatory or unfair practices based on race, color, sex, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status, disability, marital status, military or veteran status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, with respect to employment, labor union membership, housing accommodations, property rights, education, public accommodations, or public services;

(D) To protect, to the extent permitted by this subchapter, all persons from unfounded charges of discriminatory or unfair practices; and

(E) To effectuate this policy by means of public information promotion, alternative dispute resolution procedure, and resource referral as prescribed by this subchapter [Vermillion City Council, Ordinance 1377, as printed for second reading in council agenda packet, 2018.06.18].

See, Rep. Clark? Business owners really can’t turn away customers of color. Realtors can’t steer immigrants away from certain neighborhoods. However, declining to serve racists like Rep. Clark or human rights abusers and their lying mouthpieces appears to remain outside the scope of protections offered by Vermillion’s Human Rights Commission.

Vermillion is the fourth town in South Dakota to create such a commission, following the lead of Brookings, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City. This action should boost Vermillion’s HRC Municipal Equality Index five points, making them only the third town in South Dakota to break 30 on HRC’s 100-point scale. City intern Addison McCauley proposed the commission last winter in part to raise that score and improve Vermillion’s image for marketing and recruiting students versus Brookings, which leads the state with an MEI of 72. The proposal was initially met with some white-privilege denialism:

“I may have blinders on, but as far as I know, we have no diversity issues in this town,” [Alderman Rich] Holland said. “We have predominately Caucasians, but that’s because that’s who chooses to live here, not because we’ve said ‘that’s all we want here.’ So, I’m really concerned about that. In the past, I’ve heard people say this isn’t a very friendly city, especially to minorities and I disagree.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Alderman Tom Sorensen told Holland, “because we do discriminate in this community. We discriminate to the point that a number of years ago someone was murdered because he was gay. I can tell you right now there’s discrimination in this town against minorities.”

“I disagree with that,” Holland said [David Lias, “Sparks Fly During Human Rights Talk,” Vermillion Plain Talk, 2018.01.26].

Last Monday’s vote to create the Vermillion Human Rights Commission was unanimous.


  1. Porter Lansing 2018-06-26

    How does your town stack up on the Human Rights Commission’s Municipality Equality Index? (my l’il town’s at 48 and trying to do better) We don’t have a city civil rights commission but Colorado has one. Ever heard of the gay wedding vs the cake baker case? It seems a few zealous members of the state civil rights commission didn’t think religious beliefs were a valid reason to make business decisions. Supreme Court threw out their ruling of discrimination by the cake baker because religious beliefs ARE a valid reason to make business decisions but didn’t rule on whether religious beliefs can overrule civil rights.

  2. Porter Lansing 2018-06-26

    Is this a clue to why in general South Dakota is a bit less tolerant of minorities? We all grew up with it. Could this be expanded to Tom Sawyer and Huckelberry Finn?
    ~ A division of the American Library Association has voted to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a major children’s book award over concerns with how the early-to-mid 20th-century author portrayed blacks and Native Americans.

  3. Ryan 2018-06-26

    Oh thank goodness. More commissions. More task forces. More purpose statements. More words.

    I wonder if that is the Tom Sorensen I used to know. If so, he’s a great guy.

    I’ll admit, thought, it seems a little silly to hold a crime committed by one or two people against a whole community several years later. I’ve noticed recently you can say the stupidest things without any blowback if you just pretend you are standing up for all those helpless racial minorities, housewives, homosexuals, or soldiers.

  4. mike from iowa 2018-06-26

    Master, I just saw a Naew York Times headline about South Dakota jury may have sentenced a man to death for being gay and the Scotus doesn’t care. Of course, the meat of the story is hidden behind a paywall. What’s up? Anyone know (speaking of human rights)?

  5. bearcreekbat 2018-06-26

    mfi, the habeas petitioner was Charles Rhines who was sentenced to death for a murder during a donut shop robbery in Rapid City about 20 years ago. He sought habeas relief based on statements that one or more jurors said during deliberations that he would actually enjoy life in prison because he was gay and would be able to express his romantic interests with all those other male prisoners. Rhines argued that this juror’s comment tainted the sentencing jury’s verdict.

    I believe that the lower state and federal courts denied Rhines habeas relief and it is my understanding that the SCOTUS denied cert without issuing any opinion one way or the other.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-06-26

    Thanks as always, bcb. In other not necessarily news news, Justice Sotomayor teed off on activist majority for their opinion on Drumpf’s Muslim ban. Ouch!

  7. bearcreekbat 2018-06-26

    mfi, de nada mi amigo! Justicee Sotomayer’s dissent outlined Trump’s factual history of anti-Muslin public statements, many of which were simply ignored in the Robert’s majority opinion. I thought she was very eloquent and persuasive.

  8. mike from iowa 2018-06-26

    Ain’t she something? And the majority had it coming and more.

  9. Debbo 2018-06-26

    It’s always rather dumfounding when a white male like Holland argues that there’s no discrimination in his town. I’m sure he’s never experienced any. Duh.

  10. Debbo 2018-06-26

    Faribault is a town of 22,000 in southeast Minnesota that doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation when it comes to treatment of minorities. Just a couple days ago the city council passed an ordinance making it easier for cops to harass renters. It’s no secret around that town, 13 miles from where I live, that the point was to chase blacks, chiefly Somalis, out of town.

    Faribault is a nasty town that’s already experiencing blowback on that. We’ll see how it evolves.

  11. Porter Lansing 2018-06-27

    You’re very astute, Debbo. 😊 Every race (except some male members of one race) agrees that white males have extra privileges. Somehow, those exceptional males believe everyone has the same opportunities they have.

  12. Dicta 2018-06-27

    I haven’t read Sotomayor’s dissent in the travel ban case, so I am going to be lazy and ask bcb for some insight. My understanding is that because Trump said the ban was for “national security,” the court was bound to rational basis analysis and must show deference to the executive. Because of that, it held that the law itself was “facially neutral” and basically ignored Trump’s repeated statements that reflected animus towards muslims. My question: what is the precedent for this “facially neutral” analysis used by the majority as it applies to executive powers even when the president clearly and repeatedly expressed animus towards a group on the basis of religion?

  13. bearcreekbat 2018-06-27

    Dicta, CJ Roberts cited a 1972 decision, Kleindienst v. Mandel, as the precedent relied upon for the scope of review. Roberts wrote:

    . . . this Court has engaged in a circumscribed judicial inquiry when the denial of a visa allegedly burdens the constitutional rights
    of a U. S. citizen. In Kleindienst v. Mandel, the Attorney General denied admission to a Belgian journalist and selfdescribed
    “revolutionary Marxist,” Ernest Mandel, who had been invited to speak at a conference at Stanford
    University. 408 U. S., at 756–757. The professors who wished to hear Mandel speak challenged that decision under the First Amendment, and we acknowledged that their constitutional “right to receive information” was implicated. Id., at 764–765. But we limited our review to whether the Executive gave a “facially legitimate and bona fide” reason for its action. Id., at 769. Given the authority of the political branches over admission, we held that “when the Executive exercises this [delegated] power negatively on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justifica-tion” against the asserted constitutional interests of U. S. citizens. Id., at 770.

    The principal dissent suggests that Mandel has no bearing on this case, post, at 14, and n. 5 (opinion of SOTOMAYOR, J.) (hereinafter the dissent), but our opinions have reaffirmed and applied its deferential standard of review across different contexts and constitutional claims. . . .

  14. Mark Winegar 2018-06-28

    This makes me proud to be a Vermillionaire!

  15. mike from iowa 2018-06-28

    and korporations have human rights.

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