SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota joined a growing list of states with bills and now, likely laws, aimed at ensuring that athletes would play on high school sports teams on the gender that matched their sex at birth.
Gov. Kristi Noem said this week she intends to sign HB 1217 into law. Noem said the law protects the integrity of Title IX which was created to ensure equity in men’s and women’s sports in college and girls and boys sports in high school and college.
HB 1217 “isn’t about transgender,” Noem said. HB 1217 ensures that girls participate in girls sports and women play women’s sports, Noem said.
Opponents said the 1217 discriminates against transgender athletes and in particular, females.
Earlier this year lawmakers in at least seven states introduced bills aimed at curbing or banning transgender athlete participation in sports. Those states include South Dakota, North Dakota, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Tennessee.
Mississippi just passed a law that bans transgender athletes from participating in boys and girls sports in high schools and on men’s and women’s teams in universities.
The North Dakota House passed a similar bill in February. The bill bans public schools from allowing students to participate on sports teams that don’t correspond with birth or biological sex.
Idaho passed a ban on transgender sports participation in 2020. The law has been blocked in federal court.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Commission have said laws that would pass this year would face legal challenges, just as the Idaho law has.
The original Idaho House Bill 500 was also called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” Advocates used language in 2020 similar to what advocates of HB 1217 used this year in South Dakota.
The Idaho attorney general’s office said it was concerned about the legality of the law banning transgender girls and women from participating in girls or women’s sports and about how such a law could be implemented, according to the Idaho Press.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg or his office has not weighed in on the legality of HB 1217.
In Idaho, retired Idaho State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones filed a brief last year opposing the law.
Jones has also formed a watchdog group to combat what he calls unconstitutional laws such as the law aimed at transgender athletes, according to the Idaho Public Radio show, Idaho Matters. Jones said in the March 8 edition of Idaho Matters, “it seems like there are unconstitutional bills being dragged up practically daily.”
The state has lost eight cases since 2004. Each law was defended by the state and paid for by taxpayers, according to Idaho Matters.
Another potential negative impact is the loss the of NCAA tournaments and or games.
More than 500 NCAA athletes signed a letter to the NCAA “calling for the institution to uphold its nondiscrimination policy and publicly refuse to host championships in states with bans against trans athletes,” according to Athlete Ally and Sports Illustrated.
Two of the athletes who signed are students in Summit League schools.
Thomas Lee of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority said in a March 9 KELOLAND News story that there is a risk for South Dakota to lose NCAA sports events if 1217 becomes law.
“There will be likely fallout here for events, sporting events, concerts, conventions, that will have a similar effect to what North Carolina went through a few years ago regarding lost impact, sporting events being taken away, other events being taken away that have already been awarded, but also events that we now don’t have the opportunity to bid on simply because we won’t be given that chance,” executive director of Sioux Falls Sports Authority, Thomas Lee said in the March 9 story.
Economic analysis said North Carolina suffered a big blow after it passed a restroom law that banned transgender individuals from using the restroom of their identity. The NCAA pulled seven championships from the state after the law was passed in 2016.
The state repealed most of the the law in 2017 not long after it passed.
The Summit League men’s and women’s basketball championships are played in Sioux Falls each year.
KELOLAND News contacted the Summit League about 1217 but league officials declined to comment.
“At this time, we are not going to have any comments,” said Ryan Powell, the Summit League assistant commissioner for communications.
According to various media reports, including Forbes, there were 20 measures introduced in states last year aimed at transgender participation in sports.
It appears some of the legislation introduced stems in part from former President Donald Trump and his administration’s changes to Title IX in issues of sexual assault and harassment but in statements that said Title IX did not apply to transgender athletes.
Former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr filed a statement in support of Idaho’s transgender law. The statement released on June 19 said, “Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes. Under the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause allows Idaho to recognize the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics.”
There are 16 states in the nation with “friendly policies that help facilitate full inclusion of trans/non-binary/GNC (gender non-conforming) students in high school athletics,” the trans athlete resource organization Transathlete.com said. The organization said there are 11 states with discriminatory policies.
There are another 14 that require medical proof or other documentation. Ten states do not have statewide guidance.
The NCAA does not does not require gender confirming surgery or legal recognition of a player’s transitioned sex in order for transgender players to participate on a team which matches their identity, Transathlete said.
But the NCAA does have rules on hormones. The policy was released in 2011.
“A trans female (MTF) may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment,” the NCAA policy says.
“A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team,” the NCAA policy says.
The policy also says:
• “A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who is not taking testosterone related to gender transition may
participate on a men’s or women’s team.”
• “A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to
gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.”