A solution in search of a problem – that’s what Gov. Kristi Noem’s proposed legislation banning transgender women and girls from competing on the sports teams that match their gender identity and forbids their participation in both high school and collegiate athletic activities amounts to.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes Noem’s proposed legislation, an attack on transgender women and girls. The draft legislation violates 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.
“Gov. Noem’s proposed legislation is clearly fueled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Gov. Noem says 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.”
If Noem’s proposed legislation is any indication of what’s to come during the 2022 legislative session, discriminatory rhetoric will again take precedence over issues that South Dakotans really care about.
“With serious issues like education funding and tenuous state-tribal relations, it’s disturbing that we keep coming back to the same discriminatory issues year after year,” Jonelis said. “Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this. Legislation like Noem’s proposed bill has been discussed and defeated before. It’s time to move on.”
South Dakotans agree.
A 2020 Human Rights Campaign survey found that 69 percent of South Dakota voters say that “legislators are too focused on divisive issues and should be focusing on pressing issues that will actually have an impact on South Dakotans, like growing the economy.” Additionally, nearly two-thirds of voters say, “we need to stop stigmatizing transgender people as a society.”
This is the eighth attempt by South Dakota lawmakers to prevent transgender athletes from competing. After the SDHSAA enacted its inclusive transgender sports policy, lawmakers tried to meddle with the association’s authority, first with House Bill 1161 in 2015 and then with House Bill 1111 in 2016. Four additional bills – House Bill 1195 in 2015, House Bill 1112 in 2016 and Senate Bill 49 and House Bill 1225 in 2019 – would have restricted participation in high school athletic activities to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate. All bills were killed. Last year, lawmakers failed to override Gov. Noem’s veto of House Bill 1217.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
Based in Sioux Falls, 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.