SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The 2022 legislative session hasn’t started yet, but South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has proposed a draft bill that has already received attention.

Noem’s draft bill titled ‘Protecting Fairness in Women’s Sports’ is similar to one from the 2021 legislative session that in the end did not receive her approval. The main idea for this draft bill is that only athletes listed as female on their birth certificate can participate on women’s sports teams. It would impact athletes from kindergarten through college.

“In our bill last year it was a statement, you had to make a statement every year that identified whether you were male or female. And now we’re using the birth certificate,” Rep. Rhonda Milstead, (R) Sioux Falls, said.

Opponents of the bill say it’s harmful to the state’s transgender youth because it would exclude transgender girls from playing with girls.

“Offering inclusion to some of the most vulnerable kids in our state, who oftentimes deal with depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation, should be the mission of our governor. It’s really time to stop playing political football with trans kids’ lives,” Susan Williams, executive director of the Transformation Project Advocacy Network, said.

“I don’t consider it an attack because anybody who has the body of a male, a biological male, can compete in male sports,” Milstead said. “So then you have like-bodied, together, participating. Nobody wants to take participation away from anyone, but we need to, like I said, make it like-bodied.”

The South Dakota High School Activities Association already has a policy in place that allows students to participate in activities consistent with their gender identity. A health care professional’s endorsement is required.

“They also have an independent hearing officer that takes that case,” Williams said. “There is already a policy in place to make sure that there is not an unfair advantage for transgender students to be playing against their peers.”

Representative Milstead says Noem has indicated she would like the bill to get through the legislative process within the first two weeks of the 2022 session.

The 2022 legislative session starts on Jan. 11.