First Ever Gay & Lesbian Tour Of South Dakota Slated For National Coming Out Week

September 28, 1995

A gay photo-op at the famous Mt. Rushmore presidential monument, a coming out prairie bonfire, press conferences, video screenings, workshops, university classroom teach-ins and much more are scheduled for South Dakota's first-ever organized celebration of National Coming Out Week (NCOW), October 7 - 15. NCOW in South Dakota will be celebrated with a statewide tour by national and local activists and a week of educational events. Robert Bray, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) field organizer, and Barry Wick, leader of the newly formed Free Americans Creating Equal Status (FACES) of South Dakota, Inc., will travel from one end of the state to the other in an unprecedented -- and local activists say historic -- organizing, education and visibility tour. The tour will make scheduled stops in Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Vermillion (University of S.D.) and Brookings (S.D. State). The NCOW tour is sponsored FACES of S.D., Inc., in conjunction with the Sioux Empire Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Sioux Falls, plus campus groups, including Together Augustana, the Sons and Daughters of SDSU, and Gay, Lesbian &Bisexual Association of the University of S.D. More than a dozen events are scheduled, including: Rapid City -- a "coming out" story circle, press conference, people of faith ceremony at the local Unitarian Universalist Church, community meeting on gay and lesbian civil rights, coming out pot luck, and a NCOW photo opportunity at Mt. Rushmore; Vermillion -- Information table at the University of S.D., NCOW picnic and bonfire, candlelight vigil, community dinner, dance; Brookings -- Dorm meetings at SDSU, luncheon with campus officials and community leaders, classroom teach-ins on gay and lesbian sexuality and political issues, a panel discussion on gay rights, information table at the Student Organization Fair and a NCOW reception; Sioux Falls -- Convocation, NCOW "blue jeans" day, classroom teach-ins and information table at Augustana College (a religious school), a people of faith education session on gay rights, a NCOW reception/party at Touche'z -- the state's only gay bar -- a press conference, a movement-building and leadership development activist training session, NCOW brunch, a ceremony at the local MCC, and the first-ever strategy session to plan for ongoing activism in the state. "South Dakota chose Pat Robertson over George Bush in 1988...If there ever was a state where gays and lesbians needed to organize it would be this state," said Barry Wick of FACES South Dakota, Inc.. "Many people who live here are extremely isolated, fearful and closeted. This is the first visibility and organizing tour in South Dakota that will attempt to reach out to individuals and organizations, create safe spaces to come out in, educate the press and larger society, and strategize for the future of our community." Bray and Wick will speak at each stop, conduct training sessions, and help organize local activists. The tour is the result of activism around a battle for same-gender marriages that erupted in South Dakota earlier this year. Local activists, working with NGLTF and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, defeated an attempt to proactively ban civil marriage for same-gender couples, including those that may be granted in other states, such as Hawaii. For more information contact Barry Wick, FACES of South Dakota, Inc., (605)343-5577,; or Robert Bray, NGLTF, (415)552-6448,

Note to reporters and editors: Robert Bray of NGLTF will file a daily email "Dispatch From South Dakota" diary for members of the press. To receive a copy, make certain your email address is with NGLTF's Beth Barrett, who will upload the dispatches. Barrett can be reached at, (202)332-6483 ext. 3215. Traveling with Bray and Wick on the tour will be nationally known gay and mainstream media photographer Rick Gerharter, (415)824-5300, who will have photographs of the tour available.


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.