PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Female sports in South Dakota at K-12 schools and state-governed universities and technical colleges should be limited to people identified as females at or near their births, the state Senate has decided.
Governor Kristi Noem’s proposal goes next across the Capitol to the House of Representatives for further action. Senators voted 26-7 for it after a 50-minute debate Wednesday afternoon, despite warnings that its passage would open South Dakota to an expensive court fight.
Senator Timothy Johns, R-Lead, a retired circuit judge, said that the law if passed would be stopped by a court from taking effect, because it singles out transgender women and girls and therefore violates the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act.. “The people you want to benefit the most will never receive the benefit,” Johns warned.
Senator Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls countered, “I don’t really care what it costs in a lawsuit. We can’t put a price on doing what’s right.”
Senator Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill so the South Dakota High School Activities Association wouldn’t be liable to any student for complying with the proposed law.
The amendment would have also included the association under state government’s assumption of cost for defending a school, university or college against a lawsuit for complying with the proposed law.
But Senator John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, read a provision from the South Dakota Constitution that bans “granting to an individual, association or corporation any special or exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise.”
“So the high school activities association wants immunity. I can’t do that. I won’t do that,” Wiik said.
Senator Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, made the opening and closing speeches Wednesday for Noem’s bill. Duvall said she voted against a similar bill last year because it wasn’t well written and that the governor’s bill fits better. She said nine states have now passed sports-fairness laws.
Last year the governor used a style-and-form veto that wound up stopping that legislation from Representative Rhonda Milstead, R-Hartford, and Senator Maggie Sutton, R-Sioux Falls.
This year’s version of the Milstead-Sutton bill still awaits assignment for a committee hearing in the House. Sutton voted for Noem’s bill Wednesday.
ACLU of South Dakota issued a statement afterward calling the bill discriminatory. “Senate Bill 46 is not about leveling the playing field for student athletes. It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager.