South Dakota becomes first state to advance ‘shameful’ anti-trans bill in 2022

Kristi Noem South Dakota

The South Dakota state senate has pushed through a cruel trans sports ban bill, becoming the first chamber to do so in 2022.

Senators debated Senate Bill 46 for less than an hour on Wednesday (19 January) before taking a vote, Argus Leader reported. The lawmakers voted 26-7 in favour of the anti-trans bill, with two senators excused.

It’s the first anti-trans bill to be passed by a legislative chamber this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Senate Bill 46 would effectively ban trans women and girls from playing on school sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The legislation would mandate that any “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team, sport or athletic event” divide athletes into teams based on their “biological sex at birth”.

Just days before the vote, governor Kristi Noem released an ad promoting an unspecified bill that would ‘protect female sports’.

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, slammed South Dakota lawmakers for passing the bill through the Senate.

Oakley described how the state’s legislature has been an “innovator in discrimination against transgender people” for quite some time. She added that this new bill “continues this shameful legacy” by marking it as the “very first anti-trans bill passed by a legislative chamber this year”.

“The South Dakota legislature has been rehashing the same conversation about trans youth participation in school sports for years and yet there still is no evidence that transgender youth participating in school sports has posed an actual problem,” Oakley said.

She continued: “These bills don’t protect or empower girls and women – rather, they perpetuate sexist stereotypes and try to turn teammates against each other.

“It is time for South Dakota to let kids be kids.”

Senate Bill 46 will now move into a House committee. If it passes through the committee, it will go onto the House floor for debate, inching closer to landing on Kristi Noem’s desk to pass into law.

It would stand to reason that Noem would sign such legislation into law as she has previously thrown her support behind such trans sports bans.

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem speaks at a podium while dressed in a green outfit

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC on 11 July 2021. (Getty/Brandon Bell)

But she vetoed a previous anti-trans sport bill back in March after it made its way through the South Dakota legislature earlier in the year.

Noem claimed that the legislature’s version of the bill could have potentially left the state open to lawsuits and backlash from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

South Dakota lawmakers have also introduced another anti-trans bill, House Bill 1005, this year.

The bill would ban transgender youth from using multi-occupancy public school facilities that affirm their gender including: shower rooms, bathrooms, changing rooms and sleeping rooms for overnight trips.

House Bill 1005 would also allow students to bring a “private cause of action” against a school district if they encounter a “member of the opposite sex” in the multi-occupancy facility.