Metro Weekly

South Dakota goes for trifecta in pushing anti-LGBT bills

Two bills target transgender students, while a third provides religious exemptions for LGBT opponents

South Dakota State Capitol (Jim Bowen, via Wikimedia Commons).
South Dakota State Capitol (Jim Bowen, via Wikimedia Commons).

South Dakota is on a roll when it comes to devising ways to target its LGBT community for discrimination. 

A South Dakota State House committee voted 10-3 to pass a measure to ban transgender students from participating in athletic activities consistent with their gender identity, overriding the current policy of the South Dakota High School Activities Organization.

The committee also passed a second measure that would prevent a state or local government from taking retaliatory action against anyone who speaks or acts in opposition to homosexuality, transgenderism or same-sex marriage in accordance with a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” Equality advocates have warned that the bill could also be used to target single mothers due to a provision that provides protections to those who believe “sexual relations are properly reserved to marriage.”

The committee’s approval of both bills moves them a step closer to being passed and signed into law, as both now await votes by the full House. If passed, they will bring the number of anti-LGBT bills approved by South Dakota lawmakers to three. Last week, the House voted 58-10 to pass another bill that targets restroom use by transgender students in South Dakota schools, limiting it only to the restroom of their biological sex. The measure defies a ruling by the U.S. Department of Education that denying transgender students access to restrooms or changing facilities that are consistent with their gender identity violates Title IX’s prohibitions on sex discrimination.

“Fairness and equality are under attack in South Dakota,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “Both of these pieces of legislation shamefully passed today by the House State Affairs committee are dangerously far-reaching and would have severe consequences, not just for LGBT South Dakotans and their families, but for the entire Mount Rushmore State. Fair-minded people across the state must stand up and demand their lawmakers stop these extreme, discriminatory measures.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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