We said it over and over again during the 2023 South Dakota legislative session: When it comes to gender-affirming care for minors, decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors – not politicians. It is unconstitutional to single out one group of people and categorically ban all care.
Some of our elected officials disagreed. House Bill 1080, legislation that prohibits doctors from providing life-saving gender-affirming health care to trans youth in South Dakota, passed and was signed into law.
But a federal judge in the 8th circuit court – the same jurisdiction South Dakota falls under – permanently blocked an Arkansas law that aimed to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, finding the law violates the Constitutional rights of transgender youth, their parents, and their medical providers. The court held that plaintiffs prevailed on all their claims, finding the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clauses, and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The decision follows a weeks-long trial in the fall of 2022 and is the first final merits ruling in the country on such a law. Similar laws in Alabama, Florida, and Indiana are blocked by preliminary injunctions from federal courts.
This decision sends a clear message: Laws like this, when tested by evidence, are indefensible under any standard of constitutional review.
It’s not too late, however, for the same legislators who supported House Bill 1080 to change their positions and use their power to undo the harm the new law will inevitably cause for trans South Dakotans (and avoid costly taxpayer-funded litigation, like in Arkansas).
Even when our legislators aren't in Pierre, they need to keep hearing from you, their constituents. We will continue to do all that we can to fight for their rights and well-being of trans South Dakotans in the face of government-sanctioned discrimination.