As Governor Kristi Noem continues to scapegoat transgender South Dakotans to salvage her celebrity, the Human Rights Campaign releases its tenth annual Municipal Equality Index measuring LGBTQ inclusivity in 506 cities across the United States. The college town where Noem received her degree, Brookings, is one of 110 cities nationwide, and the only one in South Dakota, to earn a perfect 100 on the MEI. Brookings get special recognition for paddling against the state’s current of exclusivity:
Brookings once again earned one of HRC’s 74 MEI “All Star” designations. MEI All Stars are cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ+ equality in states that according to the HRC have “no state-level explicit statutory non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.”
The 2021 average score for cities in South Dakota was 31 out of 100 points, less than half the national average of 67.
Since the city’s first inclusion in the MEI in 2013, the City of Brookings, community organizations and the Human Rights Commission have continued to improve inclusivity efforts year after year, and these efforts are reflected in the community’s score.
…“We’re the only city in South Dakota with a 100% score and one of the few in the Midwest, and we continue to endeavor to keep that score,” Brookings Mayor Oepke “Ope” Neimeyer said “We’re proud of that and what we’ve accomplished – it’s what we stand for. Also, recently we’ve received recognition along with other peer communities across the country by the National League of Cities (NLC)” [City of Brookings, press release, Brookings Register, 2021.12.20].
Dang—how about Mayor Ope for Governor?
The Human Rights Campaign reports several positive trends in its 2021 MEI:
- 110 100-point cities, up from 94 last year.
- More cities offering transgender-inclusive health care benefits to city employees than last year – a total of 181 – despite the standards for credit tightening this year.
- 74 “All-Star” Cities—cities that scored above 85 points despite being in states with no state-level explicit statutory non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people—compared to 61 last year.
- 43 municipalities have anti-conversion therapy ordinances in states with no state-level protections, up from 38 last year.
- Only 8 zero-point scores [HRC Foundation, “Municipal Equality Index 2021,” December 2021].
The town where Kristi Noem occasionally pops in for photos and a sauna, Pierre, is one of those eight zero towns. Vermillion and Sioux Falls are the only towns breaking 50, posting 52. Vermillion is up nine points from last year; Sioux Falls is down ten. Sioux Falls managed to reach 63 on the MEI before Paul TenHaken started mayoring.