SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Monday morning, Governor Kristi Noem announced the formation of a new “Defend Title IX Now” coalition at a news conference set up to address the controversy surrounding House Bill 1217; a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in high school sports.

Noem said today that the bill, and the formation of the new coalition, are not things that target the transgender community, a statement that Jett Jonelis, Advocacy Manager for the South Dakota ACLU, says is untrue.

Jonelis says these types of actions have attempted before, and that goal is to deny transgender people their identity.

Noem, along with other proponents of this legislation have said that it is necessary in order to protect women’s sports; implying that the participation of transgender girls would be unfair. Jonelis says that this fear is unfounded.

Announcing the coalition, Noem indicated that the purpose was to gain enough support that it could overpower the NCAA, saying “Once we have enough states on board, a coalition brought big enough the NCAA cannot possibly punish us all, then we can guarantee fairness at the collegiate level.”

Discussing the goal of the coalition, Jonelis says that it seems like it is not to simply about guaranteeing fairness. “The goal seems to be to undermine these organizations that have oversight over athletic competition,” she says, “and to strong arm them into betraying their own policies and their own principles.

The NCAA currently has policies in place to ensure fairness when it comes to transgender participation. Under NCAA rules, a transgender woman must complete one full year of testosterone suppression therapy before being allowed to compete on a women’s team.

Recently, a letter signed by more than 500 current college athletes, including a cross country runner from the University of South Dakota, was sent to the NCAA calling for the organization to uphold a anti-discrimination policy and “only operate NCAA championships and events only in states that promote an inclusive atmosphere.” 

Jonelis tells us the potential impact this and other anti-transgender actions is much greater than just the economic hits that the state could take. “The human impact is almost incalculable,” she says. “Even just the rhetoric around these types of bills is harmful to transgender people, let alone the actual effect of these bills.”

Jonelis also spoke about the harm that would be caused by forcing transgender girls to play on boys teams, which HB 1217 would do if passed.

Asked about the solution to the problems facing the transgender community, Jonelis pointed to understanding and education as the way forward. “I think that we will continue to see some form of this until there is a much more broad understanding and acceptance of transgender people,” she said, pausing for thought before continuing. “Which is what makes it so important for people to be talking about how much they support transgender people, which makes it so important to have those conversations as often as you can, and make sure you’re speaking out in support of transgender people at every opportunity that you have.”

Noem avoided signing HB 1217 last week, sending it back to the legislature by a ‘style and form veto,’ with suggested revisions she wants the legislature to enact. If lawmakers agree to Noem’s changes to the bill, the measure will only need a simple majority to become law. It will no longer need the Governor’s signature.