Fairness in Women’s Sports Won’t be Achieved with House Bill 1217

House Bill 1217 won't protect anyone.

House Bill 1217 isn’t about discrimination. At least that’s what bill supporters say.

No, supporters say House Bill 1217, legislation that would ban transgender women and girls from playing sports on teams consistent with their gender, is about protecting girls. Protecting fairness in women’s sports.

Fairness is a worthy goal. But House Bill 1217 is not about protecting fairness in women’s sports.

If it were, House Bill 1217 would 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. 

If it were, legislators wouldn’t be eager to jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding for women’s sports and violating existing NCAA policies.

If it were, then it wouldn’t go against every major women’s sports organization that supports transgender women and girl's inclusion in sports.

No, this is not about protecting fairness in women’s sports.

Rather, House Bill 1217 is an attack on transgender women and girls that will cause them serious emotional and physical harm.

It prevents transgender women and girls from having the opportunity to play sports and have their personal dignity respected.

It undermines the authority of the South Dakota High School Activities Association and the NCAA, governing boards that already have clear policies on the inclusion of transgender student athletes.

And it’s a violation of both the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protects all students – including those who are transgender – from discrimination based on sex.

The only thing that House Bill 1217 protects is the ability for people to discriminate against transgender people.

It is the seventh such attack on transgender athletes in South Dakota since the SDHSAA enacted its inclusive transgender policy almost 10 years ago. Constant discrimination like this is a distraction from the needs of the state.

South Dakotans do not need or want this type of protection. We do not need or want House Bill 1217. It’s time to stop these attacks and the very real harm they cause to transgender people across South Dakota. Transgender people belong everywhere in South Dakota – including sports.