Metro Weekly

South Dakota lawmakers approve bill to ban transgender athletes from women’s sports

Gov. Kristi Noem has vowed to sign the bill into law, claiming it will promote "fairness"

Gov. Kristi Noem – Photo: Matt Johnson, via Wikimedia.

South Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill banning transgender female student-athletes from competing in sports specifically designated for women, becoming the second state this year to pass such a prohibition.

HB 1217, which purports to ensure “fairness in women’s sports,” would require athletes to compete based on their assigned sex at birth. The bill passed the South Dakota Senate on a 20-15 vote, after having passed the House of Representatives, 50-17.

The bill now heads to Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who said on Twitter she planned to sign the legislation, invoking the annual celebration of International Women’s Day.

“In South Dakota, we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports! I’m excited to sign this bill very soon,” Noem tweeted.

With Noem’s signature into law, South Dakota becomes the second state this year to pass a bill preventing trans athletes from competing according to the gender by which they identify, following Mississippi. Last year, Idaho passed a nearly identical measure, which has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge as a lawsuit challenging the statute moves forward.

According to the Worthington Daily Globe, only one transgender girl in the last 10 years has been approved by the South Dakota High School Activities Association to participate in sports.

Yet Republicans — not only in South Dakota, but nearly two dozen other states where similar bills have been introduced — have argued that banning transgender athletes is something that must take precedence over other priorities, claiming a ban is essential to preserving “fairness” in women’s sports.

The South Dakota bill requires participants for both girls’ and women’s athletics to submit annual documentation identifying their birth sex and a drug test in which they test negative for any drugs or unusually high hormone levels.

Students who make a “false statement” on the annual document may be removed from a team, and students who believe they’ve been “deprived” of an athletic opportunity due to transgender participation will be able to sue.

See also: U.S. Senate defeats amendment to ban trans athletes from women’s sports

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota stopped short of promising to sue, but noted that the bill’s passage would likely result in costly litigation, with taxpayers ultimately shouldering the cost of the lawsuit.

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, condemned the bill’s passage, noting that its hotline and online services have received over 400 contacts from South Dakota youth in crisis over the past year.

The organization expressed fears that excluding transgender youth from sports would simply lead to greater alienation, increased feelings of depression, and thoughts of suicidal ideation.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth want nothing more than to be loved and respected for who they are. Yet, rejection and victimization have put these youth at significantly increased risk for suicide,” Sam Brinton, the vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project said in a statement.

“Lawmakers should be expanding support services for trans youth and fostering inclusion in the classroom and on the field, not making life harder than it already is.”

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