As part of an annual discussion series, the Women, Gender and Sexuality studies department presented a Civil Rights Roundtable last Thursday.
With representatives from advocacy organizations and scholarly experts in attendance, the department designed the event for people to ask questions on civil rights issues.
Sara Lampert, program coordinator for Women, Gender and Sexuality studies, said this was an opportunity for students to learn about issues like LGBTQ rights, access to healthcare and workplace equality.
“I think a lot of times we hear about issues that are nationally important but we don’t always know how they affect us here,” Lampert said.
The topic for this roundtable discussion was chosen based on the Title VII case hearings, regarding LGBTQ rights, that will take place in October. Lampert said she hopes this case would be a springboard for talking about civil rights issues in South Dakota.
“We want students to know about what people are doing in the state and engaging in civic questions. We want to always let people know what’s out there,” Lampert said.
Travis Letellier, economics professor and the chair for Equality South Dakota, South Dakota’s only statewide LGBTQ group, was a panelist at the roundtable event.
Letellier said he was excited to see a variety of students and faculty and the event.
“What I hope from the audience’s perspective, is that they got to see that there are a lot of civil rights issues that are affecting many different segments of the South Dakota economy,” Letellier said.
The main purpose of the civil rights roundtable was to introduce them to the conversation about sex and gender discrimination.
“Things aren’t always rosy for everybody,” Letellier said. “It’s important for us to all be aware that there are a lot of people in South Dakota and the United States who face a lot of uphill battles.”
The conversation about sex, gender civil rights in South Dakota is ongoing, this roundtable was just the beginning. Letellier said he hopes the audience walked away with a better understanding of these issues.
“The more we have these types of conversations, the more people across South Dakota realize that there are gay people in South Dakota, there are transgender people who live in South Dakota,” Letellier said. “We are voters, we are engaged in the political process. We are very active members in our community.”