Numerous bills relating to transgender issues have been proposed at this year’s 97th legislative session that started this week.
House Bill 1006 and Senate Bill 46 would prevent trans girls from playing on girl’s sports teams. Seven similar bills have been filed since 2015. Governor Kristi Noem spoke about the legislation in her State of the State address this week at the Capitol in Pierre.
“Our young girls are having their freedom to achieve taken away by schools and organizations that are changing the rules of the game in competition," she said. "Common sense tells us why boys and girls' bodies are biologically different. We need to protect the freedom of our young girls to go out there and to do it.”
Along with this proposed legislation, House Bill 1005 would restrict bathroom and locker room use at all public schools to the sex assigned at birth. It would also allow for lawsuits if another student observes a violation.
Supporters of the bills say they are not trying to discriminate, but transgender advocates say it's another attempt to make that community feel less welcome.
Susan Williams is the founder of the Transformation Project Advocacy Network, a nonprofit that educates people on gender identity and expression.
“When the Legislature spends a big amount of time and energy on something that affects a very small portion of South Dakotans, and it’s discriminatory as well, it just feels so awful to them,” she said.
Williams said school districts that have already implemented restrictive bathroom-use policies have created serious problems for transgender students. She hopes to get more of the bill’s sponsors to hear personal stories.
“Talk to transgender students, talk to teachers who see these students going through things,” she said.
Other advocacy groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union, say the Legislature needs to focus on more pressing matters like education funding and child care.
- Brookings, 1 p.m. at Hillcrest Park
- Pierre, 10 a.m. on the Capitol steps
- Rapid City, 10 a.m. at 6th and Main
- Sioux Falls, 10 a.m. at Van Eps Park
- Vermillion, noon at the Platz
- Watertown, 3:30 p.m. at Highway 212 and Highway 81
— Greater Dakota News Service contributed to this report.