Senate Passes Bathroom Bill, Transgender Advocates Send Letter to Daugaard

Agriculture

The South Dakota Senate has voted, and the so-called transgender bathroom bill is heading to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk.  After more than an hour of debate in Pierre, senators passed House Bill 1008 20 to 15.  If Daugaard signs the bill, it would restrict students from going into bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools that don’t match their biological sex

During the discussion, legislators who support the bill said they wanted it to protect biological males and females from being in the same bathrooms and locker rooms in various states of undress.  Opponents questioned the constitutionality of the bill and said they fear it will cost the state millions in lawsuits. 

As it moves forward, LGBT advocates are inviting Governor Daugaard to meet a transgender person. 

“We’re all humans.  And I hope that if I do get the chance to meet with the governor, he can understand that,” Thomas Lewis, an 18-year-old high school student who identifies as a transgender male, said.  

In order to get Daugaard’s attention, the Center for Equality in Sioux Falls sent him a letter.  It is a response to him saying he is not aware of ever meeting a transgender person. 

“In light of recent events, the Center for Equality would like to invite you to visit with us in Pierre to learn more about the transgender community and to meet a few transgender Dakotans.”

That is the opening line of a one-page letter to Governor Dennis Daugaard. 

“In a press conference, he announced he’d never met a transgender individual before.  We would like to change that,” Thomas Christiansen, Center for Equality president, said.

Christiansen and his colleagues have been keeping a close watch on bills in the legislature.  He worries the transgender bathroom bill could lead to more bullying in schools and beyond. 

“It’s going to affect suicide statistics.  People are going to lose their lives over these bills that are coming out,” Christiansen said. 

If the governor signs it, South Dakota will be the first state in the nation to require public school students to use facilities like bathrooms based on their sex at birth. 

In a previous story about this topic, Daugaard’s Chief of Staff said the governor will listen to the audio recordings of the testimony and debate on the bill, including from transgender people, before he makes a decision.  At the time this story aired, Daugaard nor his staff responded about whether he had received or read the letter.  

Christiansen hopes the Governor agrees to a meeting, and says it’s his, and other lawmakers, duty to represent all voters in the state. 

“To not have an interest in being a part of understanding transgender individuals, I think it would be very troubling if he were to not accept an invitation,” Christiansen said. 

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