Today, Senate lawmakers voted to pass legislation that will prohibit transgender women and girls from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity. The vote opens the state up to costly litigation as the bill moves to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk for her signature.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1217. It attempts to solve a problem that does not exist and violates the United States Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
“In an attempt to ‘level the playing field,’ House Bill 1217 excludes an entire group of women and girls from meaningful participation in sports,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “House Bill 1217 isn’t about protecting fairness in women’s sports. It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life. It’s about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state.”
Legislation similar to House Bill 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.
Additionally, a recent presidential executive order on preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation states that “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” Because of this order, if House Bill 1217 is signed into law, South Dakota will face a U.S. government that is actively enforcing Title IX’s protections against discriminatory policies targeting transgender students.
Along with the ACLU of South Dakota, organizations like the South Dakota High School Activities Association, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority, the South Dakota Board of Regents, the School Administrators of South Dakota and The Transformation Project, also oppose House Bill 1217.
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.