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Posted on: March 14, 2018


Last September, Brookings made history by becoming the first municipality in South Dakota to enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing and public accommodations. South Dakota is one of 31 states that currently lack fully inclusive, comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections.

The non-discrimination ordinance expands the Brookings Human Rights Commission’s authority to include investigating and resolving complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

The passage of this ordinance represents the culmination of several years of advocacy by equality-minded city officials including City Clerk Shari Thornes. Thornes worked with Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) team, Brookings Mayor Keith Corbett, members of the city council, the City’s Human Rights Commission, and other city officials to identify specific measures Brookings could take to protect all of its residents and send a clear message that the city is welcoming, inclusive and open for business.

The Human Rights Campaign applauds Mayor Corbett, Brookings City Council members, City Attorney Steve Britzman, City Manager Jeffrey Weldon, Thornes and the Brookings Human Rights Commissioners for helping make these vital protections a reality.

When Brookings was first included in the MEI in 2013, the city received a final score of 34. Since then, the city has proactively worked to make its laws and policies more inclusive, resulting in a notable score of 72 in last year’s MEI. Of the nine South Dakota cities currently rated in the MEI, Brookings earns the highest score. The city’s recently-enacted protections will be reflected in this year’s MEI, which will be released later in 2018.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) equality. By inspiring and engaging individuals and communities, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Submitted by Collen Kutney, Human Rights Campaign State & Municipal Program Senior Manager

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