Early Tuesday morning, state lawmakers in South Dakota pulled a dangerous bill that specifically targeted transgender students. Similar to legislation vetoed last year by Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, Senate Bill (SB) 115 would have prohibited transgender students from using school facilities consistent with their gender identity. Governor Daugaard stood up again for equality this year, publicly opposing SB 115.
While dozens of people met at the capitol to oppose the bill, no supporters of the bill, including the prime sponsors from the house and senate, showed up. People offering testimony against the bill included education experts, the executive branch and business interests.
“This shameful legislation targeting transgender students was a blatant attack on young people who already face high rates of discrimination, marginalization and harassment,” said HRC Regional Field Director Hope Errico Wisneski. “We hope that the withdrawal of this bill, along with the outspoken criticism from Governor Daugaard, business and education experts ends the attacks on transgender students. HRC will remain vigilant and will be ready to fight similar legislation with our local partners this year and in the future.”
Last year, South Dakota lawmakers pushed similar legislation in an attempt to prevent transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. Major child advocacy organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association — all made clear their grave concerns and objections to this type of legislation. Governor Daugaard stood on the right side of history and vetoed that bill.
“The unexpected withdrawal of SB 115 is a victory for transgender kids as well as all South Dakotans. After two years of legislative attacks on these vulnerable children we’re thankful that the message has been received and that our state leaders will get back to the critical business of the state,” Libby Skarin, Policy Director ACLU of South Dakota. “We hope transgender South Dakotans feel some relief knowing their rights are no longer on the line in Pierre. We are cautiously optimistic that this signals the end of the legislature’s intrusion into the lives of transgender kids, but we will remain ready to fight discrimination wherever we find it. Should the legislature wade back into the issue, or should a ballot measure campaign materialize, the ACLU – along with our partner organizations and dedicated allies – will unwaveringly stand in support of transgender kids and work to protect their right to live free from discrimination.”
In March of 2016, North Carolina lawmakers rammed into law a bill that contains a similar discriminatory measure and continues to wreak havoc on the people, reputation, and economy of that state. HB2 triggered a national outcry of opposition and a broad range of voices continue to speak out demanding its full and complete repeal. The economic fallout alone — including hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business — continues to grow as companies concerned with protecting their consumers and employees move conventions, trainings, operations, productions, and other events out of state. In November, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory became the only incumbent governor from either party to lose on Election Day specifically because he championed and signed HB2 into law.
This bill in South Dakota is part of a number of anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed in 2017 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking more than 60 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 19 states. For more information, visit http://hrc.im/2017legislature.