BREAKING: South Dakota legislators fail to override governor’s veto

CcpddBRVAAAHQo9The South Dakota legislature failed to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have restricted use of bathrooms by transgender students today (Thursday, March 3) by a 36-29 vote.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the legislation on Tuesday, March 1, after meeting with transgender South Dakotans. In his veto message he said the legislation “does not address any pressing issue.”

 

—  James Russell

S.D. governor vetos anti-trans legislation

Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Gov. Dennis Daugaard

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would restrict use of bathrooms by transgender students, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Daugaard decided to veto the legislation after meeting with transgender South Dakotans and realizing they presented no threat. In his veto message he said the legislation “does not address any pressing issue.”

The law would have been a first of its kind by legislating bathroom use by anatomy and targeting minors.

“Thank you Governor Daugaard for meeting with transgender people to see through their eyes that they are our friends, family, and neighbors, worthy of the same fair treatment and dignity as everyone else,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation. “The more people get to know about the real lives of transgender people, the more empathy prevails. All students, including transgender students, should be able to fully participate and have a fair opportunity to thrive in school.”

“We salute Governor Daugaard for meeting with students and listening to the concerns of legal experts and medical professionals about the serious harms caused by denying students equal access to all school programs and activities,” said Erik Olvera, communications director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “School policies should be based on evidence, not irrational stereotypes and fears, and should support the health and well-being of all students.”

—  David Taffet

Forced to wear ‘gaytard’ name tag, Gay South Dakota teen files complaint

act14-tacojohns-500x280-v01A gay South Dakota teenager who was allegedly forced to wear by his boss to wear a name tag reading “Gaytard”  filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week alleging discrimination by his former employer, according to the Sioux, Falls, S.D. Argus Leader.

Tyler Brandt, 16, of Yankston, S.D., resigned from his job at Taco John in June after the manager made wear him the name tag. Brandt told Keloland at first he wore the name tag because he feared for losing his job.

“I would always stay behind the till so they couldn’t see the name tag, I didn’t want them to see it, but even though they couldn’t see it, he would still call me by the name across the store and customers would notice,” the teen said.

Brandt is represented by American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. His complaint alleges that Taco John’s of Yankton and its parent company, Taco John’s International, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“What happened to me was so incredibly humiliating. My hope is that this filing results in a policy to ensure that no other Taco John’s employee will ever experience this kind of harassment,” he said in a statement.

The Argus Leader reported that the store’s manager saw the story differently.

John Scott, the franchised store’s  manager, said over the summer that Brandt had asked for the name tag. “He asked [a different] manager to make that name tag for him,” Scott said in June. “He [the manager] didn’t tell him he had to wear it. [Brandt] put it on himself and created the situation.”

Taco John International released a statement in June saying that the company “has a strict anti-discrimination policy and does not tolerate harassment.” However, Patricia Hays, The corporation’s counsel, said  the company would not investigate the incident because it happened at an independently-owned store.

“We think what happened to Tyler is deplorable, and this is a chance for Taco John’s International to make it right,” said Heather Smith, head of the ACLU of South Dakota.

—  James Russell

One state left without marriage ban lawsuit after South Dakota challenge

Mount RushmoreSouth Dakota was one of only two states with marriage bans that had not been sued. That changed last week when six couples filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court on Thursday, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

The suit challenges the state’s 1996 marriage law and 2006 constitutional amendment banning marriage between same-sex couples as well as the state’s right not to recognize out-of-state marriages. Five of the six couples were married in marriage-equality states. The sixth couple would like to marry in South Dakota.

On Wednesday, a suit challenged Montana’s marriage laws. North Dakota is now the only remaining state whose marriage ban is not facing judicial review. A suit in that state may be filed as early as this week.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, marriage equality has won in every suit that has come before a court.

—  David Taffet

A Texas-sized legislative closet

As another legislative session gets under way in Austin, GayPolitics.com reports today that Texas is now one of only 18 states with no openly LGBT state lawmakers. California and Maryland are tied for the most openly LGBT lawmakers, with seven each. Four states have no openly LGBT elected officials at any level of government — Alaska, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.

Texas has had only one openly LGBT state lawmaker in its history — Democratic Rep. Glen Maxey of Austin, who served from 1991 until 2003.

Of course, with 150 people in the House and 31 in the Senate, it’s all but certain that a few Texas lawmakers are LGBT.

The reason we have no seat at the table is that the chairs are all stacked in the closet.

Anyone wanna help us get them out?

—  John Wright