Post submitted by Collen Kutney, HRC State & Municipal Program Senior Manager

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 HRC’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.

HRC 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.

To view the full 2017 MEI report, visit

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