Has South Dakota’s DOT made a wrong turn?
The Sioux Empire Gay and Lesbian Coalition is suing the South Dakota Department of Transportation for refusing to recognize the group’s work in the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program. The suit was filed Aug. 13 in federal court in Rapid City.
According to Reuters, the SDDOT accepted the coalition’s offer to participate in the public service program, and it designated a two-mile stretch of road for the coalition to clean up. However, it refused to erect a sign acknowledging the coalition’s participation. (As part of the Adopt-A-Highway program, signs are routinely posted to identify the adopting groups.)
Transportation officials have stated that the sign was refused because the coalition is an advocacy group; the coalition claims that the refusal violates its members’ right to free speech. Governor William Janklow (R) threatened to kill the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program rather than grant the coalition a sign.
In 1999, a similar case was decided in Missouri. There, the Ku Klux Klan sued when the state refused to allow the group to participate in its Adopt-A-Highway program. The court sided with the Klan, forcing Missouri to designate a one-mile stretch of road to the group.