Gov. Noem signs transgender sports bill into law

A month and a half after announcing the legislation, Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 46 into law Thursday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda.
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 9:32 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A month and a half after announcing the legislation, Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 46 into law Thursday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda. That legislation restricts athletes in school districts and post-secondary institutions from participating in activities that do not align with their biological sex at birth.

“Thankful to see this bill get support from the legislators and make it to my desk, and that now we will ensure that we have fairness and a level playing field for female athletes here in the state of South Dakota. The K-12 level and at the university level.” said Noem.

The bill’s opponents however say the fight is not over to prevent it from taking effect. The ACLU of South Dakota has been advocating against the bill during it’s journey through the South Dakota State Legislature, calling the signing a sad day for transgender youth and their families.

“It’s shameful. And it only reinforces the incorrect notion that transgender students are not entitled to the same dignity and respect as all students.” said ACLU of South Dakota Communications Director Janna Farley.

Instead of focusing on topics that would further protect the interest of women’s sports, the ACLU of South Dakota said the bill focuses on a non-issue.

“If Governor Noem and the legislators who supported Senate Bill 46 really wanted to protect fairness in women’s sports, they would be tackling the actual threats to women’s sports. Everything from severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, the sexual ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, pay equity for coaches,” said Farley. “There’s so many things that could be tackled. But instead, we’re focusing on transgender women and girls.”

Advocacy groups in the state and around the country say the process has placed stress and fear on transgender youth and their families, by telling those individuals that they’re different and excluding them from activities with their peers.

“I really think that this is hurtful to the students, and it disrupts schools’ efforts to treat all kids fairly,” said Transformation Project SD Executive Director Susan Williams. “Governor Noem and the South Dakota State Legislature have decided to really shut transgender youth out of these opportunities, promote discrimination and encourage harassment of vulnerable kids in our state.”

According to The Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, Senate Bill 46 is the first anti-transgender bill to be signed into law in 2022. For parents of transgender youth in the state, the legislation singles out their children and doesn’t treat them as equals to their peers.

“The signing of this bill is just sad. The bill is discriminatory. If it were really about fairness in sports, we’d be finding ways for all girls to play on traveling teams, go to special camps, or get conditioning. We wouldn’t be trying to exclude a segment of girls from participating in sports.”

Jennifer Phalen, parent of a transgender youth

The ACLU of South Dakota said even though the bill will come into effect on July 1st, their fight against Senate Bill 46 is far from over.

“So in terms of Senate Bill 46, we’re weighing all of our options to ensure that the constitutional rights of transgender women and girls in South Dakota are upheld.” said Farley.

Farley said in addition to the fairness in women’s sports bill, the ACLU of South Dakota is also advocating against other bill in the state legislature that would also affect transgender youth. One of those bills is House Bill 1005, that would ban transgender students from using school bathrooms that match their gender identity.

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