South Dakota governor Kristi Noem signs 2022’s first shameful, hateful anti-trans sports bill

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem wears a red outfit as she speaks on stage

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem signed a bill banning trans student-athletes from playing in sports leagues that align with their gender identity.

Noem’s signature makes South Dakota the latest state to enact such legislation in the US, and it is the first state to pass a trans athlete ban into law in 2022.

The bill, which is set to take effect on 1 July, mandates that anyone competing on girls or women sports teams must have “female” “listed on the student’s official birth certificate” which was “issued at or near the time of the student’s birth”.

Noem said the bill will help “ensure” there is “fairness” for cisgender female athletes in South Dakota during a news conference.

“We will ensure that we have fairness and a level playing field for female athletes here in the state of South Dakota, at the K-12 level and at the university level,” she said.

However, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) slammed the bill as “discrimination, plain and simple”.

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the HRC, said Noem and “anti-LGBTQ+ state legislators” have continued their “relentless, baseless and patently discriminatory attacks” against trans kids.

“They show no shame,” Oakley said. “The governor’s eagerness to pass a bill attacking transgender kids reveals that her national political aspirations override any sense of responsibility she has to fulfil her oath to protect South Dakotans.”

She added that the bill “isn’t solving an actual problem that South Dakota was facing”. Instead, Oakley argued that Noem and other legislators were just “playing games with vulnerable children”.

Susan Williams, executive director of the Transformation Project, told the Argus Leader that the organisation had worked to “defeat legislative attacks on trans youth” for eight years. So she said Noem’s bill came as a devastating blow for the trans community in South Dakota.

“Today, we are devastated that one of these bills is being signed into law,” she said. “We know trans youth across this state and country are hurting at this news.”

Williams continued: “We want every trans person watching to know that we are with you, we see you, and we are here for you.”

South Dakota has now joined nine other states that have enacted an anti-trans sports ban. Similar legislation has been passed in Texas, Montana, Idaho, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and West Virginia.

Federal judges have stopped enforcement of the trans sports bans in Idaho and West Virginia.

Janna Farley, communications director for the ACLU of South Dakota, told the Argus Leader that they are weighing their options to ensure the rights of trans women and girls in the state are upheld.