News & Updates

January 12, 2016
CONTACT:  Jen Petersen, (605) 332-2508 or
Sioux Falls, South Dakota - The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota announced today the expansion of their office with the addition of two new positions. Jen Petersen has been promoted to Communications Associate and Stacey Burnette has been named Administrative Coordinator.
By: Heather Smith, Executive Director, ACLU of South Dakota

This week the Argus’s Stu Whitney opined about Watertown High School’s all-white homecoming court dress up in Indian costumes. Failing to see the harm, the District rationalized that they were “honoring Native American culture” with its school tradition – despite feedback from Native Americans who pointed out that they did not, in fact, feel honored.

In the same week, another Sioux Falls high school was also celebrating homecoming, in part by hosting   “Gender Swap Day.” This is an apparently popular school tradition steeped in gender stereotypes: boys are supposed to wear “girls” clothing and girls are supposed to wear “boys” clothing. The event is intended to encourage school spirit during homecoming, but the result was more harm than amusement. 

Calling all students: it's pop quiz time! Let's find out if you know your religious freedom rights at school. Imagine the following scenario: an assembly is about to take place at a local public school. It features a youth minister who preaches to students and a rock band playing religious songs. Several atheist students feel uncomfortable going to the assembly because it will include prayer. Their teacher tells them they can just watch a movie during the assembly period instead.

A PDF copy of this letter is available here

July 8, 2015
To: Marty J. Jackley, Esq.
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
1302 E Hwy 14, Suite 1
Pierre, SD 57501

Re: Religion-Based Exemptions for Public Officials Authorized to Issue Marriage Licenses

Dear Attorney General Jackley,

We write to you regarding a hypothetical situation described in the July 2, 2015, ARGUS LEADER.  In the article, you are quoted as saying that South Dakota county officials may permit another employee to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple if the county employee authorized to issue a license has a religion-based objection to doing so. See Assoc. Press, Workers can have someone else issue marriage license, ARGUS LEADER, July 2, 2015.  You go on to state that if no other county official is authorized to issue the license, another county or the state could do so. Id.  The article goes to quote you describing this as a "commonsense solution" to the hypothetical that would not violate the rights of the couple seeking a license or the county employee. Id.
 What a fabulous way to wrap up Pride month!

The news was impossible to miss: Last week the Supreme Court declared state marriage bans to be unconstitutional, in a historic win for equality. The ACLU of South Dakota, with help from The Center for Equality, hosted a pop-up celebration in downtown Sioux Falls for the landmark win for marriage equality. We wanted to be the first to hand out wedding cake and offer our congratulations to the couples whose marriage will now be recognized in all 50 states.

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