South Dakota governor Kristi Noem’s ‘hateful’ chief-of-staff compares trans athletes to terrorists

Kristi Noem wears a green outfit and stands at a podium in front of a red and blue background

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem’s chief-of-staff has likened the participation of trans athletes in sports to “terrorism”.

Senate Bill 46 (SB 46) sailed through the Senate after less than an hour of debate on 29 January, making South Dakota the first state to advance an anti-trans bill in 2022.

The bill passed through the House State Affairs committee on Wednesday (26 January) in an 11-2 vote. It now goes to the House floor for debate.

Following public testimony at the committee hearing, Mark Miller, interim chief-of-staff and legal counsel to Noem, told lawmakers that the goal of the proposed bill is preventative.

He argued that other states had passed similar legislation and argued it was similar to preventing “terrorism”, Mitchell Republic reported.

“It’s sort of like terrorism,” Miller said. “You see it over there, and don’t want it to get to here.”

Lambda Legal slammed Miller’s comment in a statement posted on Twitter. The legal firm said it was “unacceptable for this hateful and transphobic mindset to exist” at the “highest levels” of South Dakota’s government.

Kristi Noem, who has long been a proponent of trans sports bans in the state, admitted to Argus Leader that she was unaware of Miller’s statement. Instead, she argued that the “spirit behind the bill” is to have “fairness for girls and girls sports”.

But Hoera Kingi, who is trans and a former high school cheerleader, testified before the committee that not being able to participate in school activities would have been “devastating to me”.

“It would’ve stopped me from meeting my favourite people and [making] my most cherished memories,” Kingi said.

Trans rights advocate holds a sign that reads 'trans kids lives matter'

Trans rights advocate holds a sign that reads ‘trans kids lives matter’. (Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

Breanna Brings Plenty, a high schooler from Little Wound, welcomed trans girls onto teams because “just like me, trans girls deserve the opportunity to play sports and be recognised and respected for who they are”.

SB 46 would effectively ban trans women and girls from playing on school sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The proposed legislation would also allow individuals to bring legal action against schools over allowing trans student-athletes to participate on teams aligning with their gender identity, according to Mitchell Republic.

Dan Swartos of the South Dakota High School Activities Association told the committee that only one trans girl has participated in the state since 2013, Argus Leader reported. He added that one trans boy had also applied, but their application was denied sometime in the past two years.

PinkNews has contacted Miller for comment.