The House State Affairs committee passed a bill Monday that would limit use of public school restrooms, changing rooms, showers and overnight sleeping accommodations to students' sex assigned at birth.
This bill would effectively bar transgender students from using the accommodations that match their gender.
Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from Florence, introduced the bill and said it's a response to the Vermillion School District's incorporation of what is essentially the opposite of the bill.
Vermillion's new policy allows students to use the restroom they prefer which corresponds with their "consistently asserted gender." The policy also applies to names and pronouns. Earlier readings of the policy had included language on locker rooms, showers and overnight accommodations, but those were scrapped.
Deutsch, who has proposed similar bills in years past, argued this bill is about the issue of privacy in the most private areas of schools, and that it's to protect students "from having to expose themselves, or being exposed to others, in a state of undress."
Four similar bills have been filed and failed in years past, including HB 1008 in 2016, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The other bills were SB 115 in 2017, HB 1296 and SB 202 in 2018. Current Gov. Kristi Noem has signaled her interest to sign bills that would limit sports participation by sex assigned at birth in the past.
Further proponents included representatives from the Alliance Defending Freedom and U.S. Chapter of Women's Declaration International as well as a retired teacher, several parents from Vermillion, four Vermillion students and a grandfather whose grandchild attends Vermillion schools.
Proponents argued for their children's safety, while opponents of the bill argued that outing trans students and forcing them to hold their urine instead of using facilities that match their gender is also unsafe.
Opponents included a Vermillion parent; a teacher from Pierre; Roger Tellinghuisen, a lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign; Jett Jonelis with the ACLU of South Dakota; a Pierre attorney; Susan Williams with the Transformation Project; a Sioux Falls student; a pediatric counselor in Rapid City; Vermillion school board member Shane Nordyke; Stephanie Marty; Dianna Miller, lobbyist for the large schools group; Rob Monson with School Administrators of South Dakota.
Nordyke explained that Vermillion's policy doesn't just "create a free-for-all for anyone to use the bathroom they want to use," she said, rather that it's based on students' consistently-asserted gender.
"This is discrimination, pure and simple," Tellinghuisen said. Transgender students deserve to be protected."
Jonelis called the bill an unconstitutional attack on rights and liberties and that proponents were citing "hypothetical future problems that haven't arisen."
In a statement, Jonelis and the ACLU also said that the bill is similar to previous efforts to expel people of color, people with disabilities and others from communal spaces.
Marty said as a transgender woman, she's had firsthand experience with the pain of being forced to use the men's room. It's been "deeply stigmatizing" for her and forces her to out herself as trans, she said, adding that she wouldn't wish that experience on any students in South Dakota.
Miller also called the bill an "unfunded mandate" because it requires schools to renovate and change facilities, and asked lawmakers if they would hire a building facilitator to make sure all 149 school districts were complying with the new law. She also questioned if the lawmakers had consulted with their local districts on the issue.
In his rebuttal, Deutsch said he had spoken to 12 superintendents in the state which has 149 school districts represented by 149 superintendents.
Rep. Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat, had moved the bill to the 41st day but was met with a substitute motion from Rep. Jon Hansen, a Republican from Dell Rapids, to pass the bill.
Smith said the committee and Legislature have been down this road before with bathroom bills, and that "we hear all the time about local control" but this would override the local control in Vermillion.
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Hansen stated with his motion, "boys should use boys' bathrooms, and girls should use girls' bathrooms."
His motion to pass the bill passed on a 7-5 vote with one excused. Reps. Arch Beal, Kirk Chaffee, Spencer Gosch, Jon Hansen, Phil Jensen, Marli Wiese and Chris Johnson all voted in favor while Reps. David Anderson, Tim Goodwin, Oren Lesmeister, Jamie Smith and Kent Peterson all dissented. Rep. Rebecca Reimer was excused.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota House committee OK's anti-transgender bathroom bill