Gov. Daugaard's Veto Protects the Health and Safety of Transgender Students in South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard today vetoed the nation's first discriminatory anti-transgender bathroom bill to pass a state legislature.

The measure became the subject of national scrutiny for proposing to single out South Dakota transgender students by forcing them to choose between isolated accommodations and those that do not match their gender identity.

"Today Governor Daugaard made a symbolic statement that South Dakota's transgender students are a valued part of the community and that our state leaders won't be swayed by out-of-state groups that don't have the interests of South Dakotans at heart," said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota. "People from across the state and country took time to reach out to the governor to urge this veto that's the true testament of democracy. 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. Thank you governor, for listening to the collective voices of South Dakotans and voting your values."

The veto protects the health and safety of transgender South Dakota students and ensures that state law complies with federal law prohibiting discrimination in schools on the basis of sex. The veto comes as 16 other states are considering similar discriminatory measures that expose transgender students to unequal treatment.

"Governor Daugaard's decision will place him unequivocally on the right side of history," said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Federal law is clear that transgender students are protected under Title IX and the governor's veto prevents costly investigations into school districts across South Dakota. Hopefully this important action by Governor Daugaard will allow the state and other states across the country to continue to invest in the safety of all students instead of singling out a vulnerable few for isolation and discrimination."

Transgender student Thomas Lewis rallied against the bill by starting a petition that garnered more than 83,000 signatures and organizing a delivery to the state capitol. Gov. Daurgaard invited Thomas and a group of other transgender students for a meeting to discuss their concerns about the harms of the bill, HB 1008. He celebrates today's victory.

"In my meeting with Governor Daugaard, 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 Thomas. "The governor made it clear today that transgender people like me are worthy of respect and kindness. I join thousands of people across the state in thanking Governor Daugaard for standing up for all South Dakotans."