PIERRE, SD — A South Dakota House committee on Wednesday approved a proposal by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to bar transgender women and girls from participating in school sports leagues that match their gender identity.
All 11 Republicans on the House State Affairs Committee voted in favor of the bill, which was billed as “protecting fairness in women’s sports.” But advocates for transgender people decried the proposal as bullying that would deprive them of an opportunity to compete and belong on a team.
“Transgender girls like me want to play sports,” said Hoera Kingi, a high school student who competed on her school’s cheerleading squad, adding that banning her from competing as a girl “would have stopped me from meet some of my favorite people and create some of my most precious memories.
Noem lobbied for the proposal this year, putting it on track to be the first controversial bill passed by South Dakota lawmakers in this year’s session.
He has already authorized the Senate and is only awaiting a vote in the House, where Republican lawmakers have in the past backed similar proposals. Some members of the House have indicated that they want the proposal to contain stricter enforcement.
“Science and common sense tell us that men are generally bigger, stronger and faster than women,” Rachel Oglesby, the governor’s political adviser, told the committee.
Organizations representing public schools in the state have also voiced their opposition to the bill, arguing that the High School Activities Association already has an effective policy that evaluates applications from transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis. School groups have warned that the bill, if passed, would put them at odds with federal law, exposing them to the potential for lawsuits, a federal civil rights investigation or possible loss of funding. federal.
Noem’s chief of staff, Mark Miller, defended the legality of the proposal and pointed to instances where trans athletes in other states have given dominant performances.
“It’s kind of like terrorism, you want to keep it there, don’t let it get here,” he said when a Democratic lawmaker asked why the governor was bringing up the issue when she didn’t. hadn’t caused controversy in South Dakota sports.
South Dakota could be the 10th Republican-controlled state to enact such a ban on transgender women or girls. In two of those states — Idaho and West Virginia — laws have been passed by federal judges. The US Department of Justice has challenged bans in other states, calling them violations of federal law.