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South Dakota Lawmakers Kill Bill Targeting Trans Student Athletes

South Dakota lawmakers kill Senate Bill 49 targeting transgender student athletes.

South Dakota lawmakers killed a bill that would’ve required trans student athletes to compete according to their sex assigned at birth.

The state’s Senate Education Committee decided in a 5-2 vote Thursday to defer action on Senate Bill 49 until the 41st legislative day of the session, The Daily Beast reports. This decision effectively killed the bill as the legislative session is shorter than 41 days, TDB senior reporter Samantha Allen notes.

“We’re thrilled with the committee’s decision,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, in a statement. “No one is harmed by allowing transgender people to compete consistent with who they are. The committee’s motion to kill this bill sends a clear message of inclusion and acceptance for our transgender friends and neighbors and that there is no place for discrimination like this in South Dakota.”

SB49, co-sponsored by state Sen. Jim Bolin and state Rep. Thomas Brunner — both Republicans — aimed to “declare void the transgender procedure adopted by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.” That procedure, adopted in 2015, allows trans students to participate in athletic activities in line with their self-identified gender, rather than their gender assigned at birth. SB49 would have barred such allowances, forcing trans girls to compete with boys and trans boys to compete with girls.
 
A Senate Education Committee hearing preceding the vote Thursday morning streamed live online. Some SB49 proponents, like Family Heritage Alliance director Norman Woods, said that supporting the bill wasn’t about “valu[ing] one student group over another” but about preserving “a basic standard of fairness.” Other proponents, like South Dakota Catholic Conference executive director Christopher J. Motz, used their time before the committee to undermine trans identities and gendered self-determination.

“Being a male or female is a physical reality,” said Motz. “To be male or female doesn’t proceed from one’s inner experience. It comes through one’s physical body.”

Opponents of SB49, like South Dakota High School Activities Association Executive Director Dan Swartos, told the committee that the SDHSAA policy allowing trans student athletes to compete in accordance with their gender identity was adopted at the request of South Dakota schools looking for guidance, noting that trans students “will still be in our schools” regardless of the hearing’s outcome. A Sioux Falls mother named Susan, who declined to share her last name out of concern for her family’s safety, spoke out against the bill on behalf of her 10-year-old trans son, Wyatt.

“I don’t know if Wyatt will want to play sports, but as a mother I want him to have the opportunity to do so,” she told the committee. “I’ve seen the harm that comes when a transgender kid is singled out.”

“You don’t have to understand what it means to be transgender to understand that this bill singles [transgender kids] out,” she continued. “Please think of kids like Wyatt when you consider this bill.”

RELATED | South Dakota Legislators Push Bill Targeting Trans Students

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