South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem, who is terrible and thus naturally a rising star within her party, decided to celebrate International Women’s Day by promoting and lauding bigotry and discrimination against girls and women. On Monday, after the South Dakota Senate passed HB 1217, a bill that would ban trans girls from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, Noem decided to share how thrilled she is by the prospect of signing the anti-trans, discriminatory bill into law.
“In South Dakota, we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports! I’m excited to sign this bill very soon,” she wrote in a tweet.
South Dakota is just one of the many Republican-dominated states that is passing, or considering passing, a version of these incredibly harmful and cruel bills targeting trans young people and in particular trans girls. By sending this legislation to Noem’s desk, South Dakota is joining Mississippi, whose legislature passed a similar bill last week and whose Republican governor has similarly promised to sign it into law. These legislative attacks gloss up bigotry with a fake feminist sheen—far from protecting girls’ sports, they are the latest bills pushed by the religious right whose goal is to legislate trans people out of social and public life.
Yet another sign that these bills are, as Athlete Ally’s Anne Lieberman put it to me, a “solution to a problem that doesn’t exist” and not really about sports at all? According to the Grand Forks Herald, only one trans girl has ever received approval by the South Dakota High School Activities Association to play on the girls’ team during the almost ten years that the state’s policy on trans student athlete participation has been in place. One girl! As Dan Swartos, the head of the SDHSAA, recalled, “She competed as an average female athlete.” What these terrible bills are about is sending a hate-filled message to trans kids everywhere, one that I am truly ashamed to see in the world.
Once Noem signs it into law, South Dakota’s anti-trans bill is likely to take the same path as Idaho’s similar law, HB 500, which was passed in 2020. After the ACLU sued Idaho, a federal judge issued an injunction barring the state from implementing its provisions, finding that the state was “motivated by a desire for transgender exclusion.” Still, even if the law never gets implemented, the hate and bigotry motivating it remains.