Media Contact

Janna Farley,

March 19, 2021

Gov. Kristi Noem sent a bill banning transgender students from participating in school sports teams back to the South Dakota legislature today with proposed changes. The American Civil Liberties Union says Gov. Noem’s changes to House Bill 1217 continue to discriminate against transgender youth and will leave the state vulnerable to costly litigation.

“House Bill 1217 was never about protecting fairness in women’s sports. It was about discrimination and the erasure of trans girls, pure and simple,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Gov. Noem’s decision not to issue a full veto of this anti-transgender bill into law is disappointing. We are relieved, however, that the organizing by trans youth and pressure from business leaders, educators and parents has given us the chance to fight to block this bill from passing. Codifying discrimination like this does nothing but hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our state. South Dakota should be better than this. The South Dakota legislature should take this moment to altogether abandon this bill that will hurt trans youth, all girls and women who want to play school sports, and South Dakota’s economy.”

Legislation similar to HB 1217 has been filed across the country in recent years and has been challenged in court. In August 2020, a federal judge blocked Idaho’s law targeting transgender student athletes, recognizing that “it is not just the constitutional rights of transgender girls and women athletes at issue but … the constitutional rights of every girl and woman athlete in Idaho” and concluded that the law was based on nothing more than discrimination against transgender people.

The ACLU of South Dakota is currently weighting all options to ensure the constitutional rights of transgender women and girls in South Dakota are upheld.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.