Read at the Rapid City Rally For Safety, held on April 4, 2014.
Martin Luther King Jr, was right when he said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” — but that arc does not bend by itself: to move forward, we need to all get together and push!
You may remember the very close state election in 2006 over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions of any kind. This amendment was direct attack on the LGBT community and their friends. Although many of us worked tirelessly in the campaign to block it, it passed — but only by 2 percent. We were disappointed, but the results told us that it was time to take steps to move the state forward on equality — so with the help of the Gill Foundation, the Equality Federation, PFund, and others, we founded a statewide political organization, Equality South Dakota. At that time we also started the non-political Equality South Dakota Foundation (for education and outreach), and Equality South Dakota PAC (to directly support candidates on our side during elections).
No longer can members of the Legislature say at a hearing in Pierre that LGBT equality is a non-issue, because, no, no, no, there’s nobody who cares about that in my town. Equality South Dakota is here to remind them — uh, Yes, yes, yes, yes, definitely in your town and across the state, the LGBTQ and allies are flying that flag for fairness –we cannot afford in South Dakota to discount or dismiss anyone — everyone is important, everyone deserves to be treated fairly and no one should live in fear of bullying or harassment just because they choose to live, love, and build their lives here in this beautiful State.
We have been there in Pierre every winter since 2008, building relationships with legislators, and making sure the issues of importance to our community and our friends get a hearing.
There is no denying that this work been very difficult that last few years. The 2010 election brought us a group of leaders who are at best indifferent and at worst hostile to the radical notion that everyone in South Dakota should be treated equally. Some have backed off from the fight for a while; working behind the scenes for change, and hoping that soon the tide will turn.
That time is now, the tide IS turning, and we know that for all of you here, and others who are stepping up to bring us forward, surf’s up!
Equality South Dakota will be working in the coming year to build up our membership and get our message out. I invite you to join us and support our statewide efforts. We’re meeting (and you are welcome to join us) on May 10 in Chamberlain, and Equality South Dakota will be speaking to our issues during this election cycle, and we look forward to taking part in the Black Hills community’s organizing event coming up in November.
I urge you to join with us. Together we will build a safer, fairer, and stronger South Dakota for everyone.