South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Proposes New Anti-Trans Sports Bill

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  • Kristi Noem
    Kristi Noem
    American politician
Kristi Noem
Kristi Noem

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who vetoed a transgender-exclusionary sports bill in March because she feared it would be struck down in court, has now proposed another such piece of legislation.

After Noem vetoed the bill, she issued two executive orders on school sports decreeing that “only females, based on their biological sex, as reflected on their birth certificate or affidavit provided upon initial enrollment,” may participate in girls’ or women’s sports. One dealt with K-12 public schools, and the other affected public colleges and universities.

This week, she introduced legislation that would incorporate the language of the orders into state law, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. She said in a press release that her new bill, unveiled Tuesday, lacked the “problematic provisions” of the legislation she vetoed. She did not say what those provisions were.

Noem had said at the time of her veto that she wanted the bill to exclude colleges and universities because of potential reprisal by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which allows trans women to compete in women’s sports if they have completed a year of testosterone suppression treatment. She started a coalition that she said would stand up to the NCAA. But she did include colleges and universities in her executive order and in her new legislation, introduced Tuesday.

In any case, Noem’s bill, like the trans-exclusionary sports bills introduced and in some cases passed in other states, is discriminatory and unnecessary, civil rights advocates said.

“This proposed legislation is clearly fueled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state,” Jett Jonelis, advocacy manager at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said in a press release. “The governor claims she wants to ‘promote fairness in women’s sports,’ but if that were true, she’d tackle the actual threats to women’s sports such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches. Bills like this that seek to ban trans women and girls from participation in athletics are based on inaccurate stereotypes about biology, athleticism and gender and are not in line with South Dakota values.”

Indeed, while supporters of such legislation claim trans girls and women have an inherent and unfair advantage over cisgender females, there is no widespread dominance of female sports by trans participants, as there are many factors that can affect an athlete’s performance. And most proponents of these bills can’t cite a single instance of trans athletes causing a problem in their state, and the South Dakota High School Activities Association has approved only one trans youth to compete in interscholastic sports over the past decade.

Nine states have enacted laws barring trans students from competing in school sports under their gender identity: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. The Idaho and West Virginia laws have been blocked by courts. Legislation to this effect has been vetoed by the governors of Kansas, Louisiana, and North Dakota.

South Dakota’s legislative session will begin January 11.

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