State Watch

Noem signs law banning transgender athletes from female sports teams

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on Thursday signed a bill into law that bans transgender athletes from competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams, NBC News reported

“This bill has been an important priority for a lot of the people behind me,” Noem said at a press conference, “and I appreciate all of their hard work in making sure that girls will always have the opportunity to play in girls sports in South Dakota and have an opportunity for a level playing field, for fairness, that gives them the chance to experience success.”

The new law will apply to all state-accredited schools in South Dakota, according to NBC News. Under the law, if a student at such a school “suffers direct or indirect harm” as a result of the law being violated, they will be allowed to sue the school, association or government entity that caused the alleged harm.

Last month, Noem released an ad touting the legislation, then making its way through the state legislature, saying it “will give South Dakota the strongest law protecting female sports in the nation!” 

Human Rights Campaign senior counsel member and state legislative director Cathryn Oakley said in a statement that “inflammatory rhetoric” used by South Dakota lawmakers in support of the bill “shows just how untethered Noem and legislators are from the realm of science, evidence, or reality,” NBC News reported. 

“Governor Noem seeks to become the face of discrimination and fear-mongering by putting a target on the backs of vulnerable children who already fear for their safety and well-being,” Oakley said.

Noem last year signed executive orders that banned transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports in the state after blocking a similar bill passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature.

“Unfortunately, as I have studied this legislation and conferred with legal experts over the past several days, I have become concerned that this bill’s vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences,” Noem wrote at the time when she refused to sign the bill.

South Dakota’s state House also passed a bill on Tuesday that bans transgender students from using bathrooms and other sex-segregated school facilities that align with their gender identity, NBC News reported. 

Oakley said the two new bills “will harm transgender kids, adding to a dangerous wave of violence against transgender and gender non-binary people across the country that is being fueled by misinformation, discriminatory laws, and divisive political talking points.”

South Dakota is the 10th state to enact a bill barring transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports, NBC News noted.

The issue of transgender athletes participating on sports teams that align with how they identify has been considered a lightning rod issue for conservatives, especially in the case of transgender athletes playing on female sports teams.

Conservatives argue that transgender athletes may pose unfair physical advantages over cisgender athletes, while transgender advocates argue that the legislation would unfairly target students who want to play on sports teams that match their gender identities.

Tags Kristi Noem LGBTQ rights South Dakota transgender athletes Women's sports
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