Metro Weekly

South Dakota governor vetoes anti-trans bathroom bill

Bill would have been first of its kind to explicitly restrict student restroom use

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton).
Dennis Daugaard – Photo: Kate Thornton

The transgender community, both across the nation and in South Dakota, is breathing a sigh of relief after Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have prohibited transgender students from using restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Had the Republican governor signed the bill into law, it would have earned a disappointing but historic designation as the nation’s first anti-transgender bathroom bill to pass a state legislature. Daugaard asserted that the bill “does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota” and “removes the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students” by denying them flexibility and imposing a one-size-fits-all solution on all school restrooms throughout the state. 

“As policymakers in South Dakota, we often recite that the best government is the government closest to the people,” he said. “Local school districts can, and have, made necessary restroom and locker room accommodations that serve the best interests of all students, regardless of biological sex or gender identity. If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them.”

LGBT organizations and their allies praised Daugaard’s decision to veto the measure.  Leaders from South Dakota’s GOP-led House and Senate must now decide whether to override the veto. However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Deutsch, is asking his fellow lawmakers not to override the veto.

“There was no place for discrimination in South Dakota when this bill was initially proposed by a handful of legislators, and today the governor confirmed unequivocally that discrimination has no place in our future,” Heather Smith, the executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement. “Thank you governor, for listening to the collective voices of South Dakotans and voting your values.”

Prior to his decision, Daugaard agreed to meet with members of the transgender community to discuss their concerns.

“I could tell that he was genuinely interested and concerned with my story, and I believe this openness helped him make this decision to veto HB 1008,” said transgender student Thomas Lewis of the meeting. “The governor made it clear today that transgender people like me are worthy of respect and kindness.”

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