2015 Dakotas’ Equality Summit

On January 16 and 17, 2015, the Black Hills Equality Center in conjunction with Equality South Dakota, Common Grounds Diversity Center, PFLAG, The Center for Equality and the Black Hills Equality Coalition hosted the first annual Dakotas’ Equality Summit. Over 80 registrants attended the summit which was held at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City, South Dakota.


The activities kicked off on Friday evening with a social mixer and live music and continued Saturday with break-out sessions.  The sessions included Candidate Campaigning (Bajun Mavalwalla); Bills and Activism (Annie Loyd); Physical (Dr. Babbitt); Psychological (Tom Bosworth); Laws (Tiffany Graham); LGBT 101 (Katrina Wilke); LGBT Youth (Nate Alfson and Terri Carlson); and Religion (Ryan Schendzielos).


During breaks from the sessions and during lunch and dinner registrants had the chance to visit vendor booths which included the BHSU GSA, Pflag, Front Porch Coalition, BHCFE, BH Mind Body Spirit, SD Peace and Justice, BH Freethinkers and Equality South Dakota.


Judy Shepard and her husband Dennis pose with key players in the South Dakota equality movement.

Back row left to right: Joshua A. Newville – the attorney who filed the lawsuit against the marriage ban in SD;

Jeremy Coller & Clay Schweitzer – one of the six couples involved in the lawsuit;

David Patton – President for the Black Hills Center for Equality. Front row left to right: Judy Shepard,

Nancy Rosenbrahn and Jennie Rosenbrahn – another couple in the lawsuit; and Dennis Shepard.


The summit came to a close with Judy Shepard as the keynote speaker Saturday evening. Since her son, Matthew Shepard, was brutally murdered during a hate crime in 1998, his parents Judy and Dennis have been advocates through their foundation, the Matthew Shepard Foundation. After 11 years Dennis and Judy along with James Byrd Jr’s. family finally got the ‘Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act’ passed in 2010. Dennis and Judy have traveled worldwide telling Matthew’s story and advocating for the LBTQA community.

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