PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — In Wednesday’s House State Affairs committee hearing, proponents of Senate Bill 46 urged a quick, preemptive response to combat the issue of transgender girls and women in sports while opponents questioned whether the bill was necessary.
One proponent likened the bill to terrorism.
Governor Noem’s legal counsel and Chief of Staff, Mark Miller, spoke about other states that have transgender women competing in athletics and said, “It’s sort of like terrorism. You want to keep it over there, not let it get over here.”
Other proponents of the bill spoke on the physical differences between the male and female sexes and how if allowed to compete, transgender women will take away opportunities for people that are born female.
Christopher Motz, executive director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference, gave testimony in support of the bill. Motz said he believes all human beings to be “eminently worthy of love, of dignity, of respect” but when it comes to competition, he believes Title IX must be taken into consideration.
“At the root of that is actually respect for women and maintaining a level playing field for girls and women in athletic competition,” Motz told the committee.
One opponent of the bill, Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, said it’s not a question of what the bill contains, but rather the timeliness of the bill that she takes issue with.
In a phone call with KELOLAND News, Sister Welbig expanded on the testimony she gave to the committee on Wednesday. Sister Welbig questioned why the legislature is hurrying this bill along when the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) has a policy already in place.
Lawmakers asked a similar question of Mark Miller who responded that it would be better to have a law in place, rather than a policy from a private organization. But Dan Swartos with the SDHSAA testified that their transgender athlete policy is in compliance with federal law and this law would place them in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title IX.
“You are going to change our policy and we are going to be sued,” Swartos told the committee.
For Sister Welbig, she is less concerned with the legality of the bill but rather the effect it would have on those that identify as transgender. Sister Welbig quoted statistics from the American Association of Pediatrics that show that 50.8% of transgender adolescent males and 29.9% of transgender females attempted suicide. That’s compared to 17.6% of cisgender females and 9.8% of cisgender males.
“If the legislature works publicly with bills like this, are they unintentionally contributing to these experiences of bullying and rejection and feeling unsafe by trans people?”
Sister Welbig says there are too many unknown factors on transgender as an identity to create legislation on it.
“The bill rests on the presumption that transgender does not really exist, therefore people who express themselves as transgender people are just expressing a trendy thing they wanna do, or an optional expression of their sexuality, or some notion,” Sister Welbig said.
Sister Welbig adds that regardless of what people may believe, the scientific evidence is strong to suggest that “transgender is a condition” in people and this legislation would deny them of rights that non-transgender people have. This bill is premature, she says.
The debate over Senate Bill 46 lasted over an hour with several representatives asking questions of both sides, with the bill eventually passing the committee 11-2. SB 46 will next be heard on the House floor where, if passed, the bill will move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.