South Dakota governor Kristi Noem doubles down on cruel crusade against trans women and girls

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem wears a gree outfit during her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on 11 July 2021

Governor Kristi Noem has proposed a new anti-trans sports bill to ban trans student-athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s teams in public schools.

In March, Noem vetoed a trans sports ban that passed through the state legislature. Noem claimed the legislature’s version of the bill could have left the state vulnerable to lawsuits and backlash from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Just a short while later, Noem issued two executive orders to prohibit trans athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams at public high schools and universities.

Noem has doubled down on her anti-trans campaign by filing draft legislation of a new bill that would codify her executive orders.

The proposal, which will be considered during the legislative session in January, states that “only female athletes, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls”.

The document declared that student-athletes who want to compete on sports teams would need to play on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate received at or near the time of their birth.

Noem claimed in a statement that the new legislation is about promoting “fairness” in girls’ and women’s sports.

“Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition,” Noem said.

She continued: “It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports.

“Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way.”

However, Jett Jonelis, the advocacy manager at the ACLU of South Dakota, argued the proposed legislation is “clearly fuelled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state”.

“The governor claims she wants to ‘promote fairness in women’s sports’, but if that were true, she’d tackle the actual threats to women’s sports such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches,” Jonelis said.

They added: “Bills like this that seek to ban trans women and girls from participation in athletics are based on inaccurate stereotypes about biology, athleticism and gender and are not in line with South Dakota values.

“If Noem’s proposed legislation is any indication of what’s to come during the 2022 legislative session, discriminatory rhetoric will again take precedence over issues that South Dakotans really care about.”

Noem’s proposed legislation would also allow cisgender student-athletes the right to sue if they suffer “direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of section 1 of this Act” – the section which bans trans students from taking part in school sports.

However, the proposal would not give trans student-athletes the ability to raise a legal challenge.

The draft legislation states: “No governmental entity, accredited school, school district, or institution of higher education may be liable to any athlete for its compliance with section 1 of this Act.”

Equality South Dakota also condemned the draft legislation in a strong, straightforward statement on Twitter.

“Trans lives in South Dakota are not up for debate,” the group wrote. “Trans girls are girls. Trans women are women. Period.”