Despite Court Ruling, Fears Linger in SD’s LGBTQ Community

The reaction to this week’s Supreme Court ruling for equal rights in the workplace has been a joyous one within the LGBTQ community, but one South Dakota group predicts things won’t change much in the Mount Rushmore State — and that fears of workplace discrimination will continue.

Monday’s court ruling confirms that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from unfair treatment by employers. Despite the court’s decision, said Carla Douglas, a Black Hills Center for Equality board member, the environment in South Dakota has created a mindset to keep information private.

“A lot of our people who are, who identify, as LGBT are still hidden,” she said, “because this state is still kind of hostile towards the LGBTQ.”

In recent years, several bills introduced by South Dakota lawmakers have been viewed as an attack on LGBTQ rights. In 2016, former Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed one of them. Douglas said these kinds of policy approaches push people to live in silence. South Dakota also is among the many states that didn’t have workplace protection laws prior to the ruling.

For Douglas, a transgender woman, living out in the open in terms of gender identity brings a mixed reaction when it comes to public acceptance and advancing in a professional setting.

“People are happy to hear about what I do in mental health for the LGBTQ community or for doing consulting work and such,” she said, “but to hire me to be a face of their organization? I still have a hard time getting through that door.”

Douglas said the Black Hills Center for Equality is working on some ideological differences within the group before it develops an advocacy agenda.

The Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County is online at supremecourt.gov.