Gov. Kristi Noem returns transgender sports bill to lawmakers

By Bob Unruh

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a rising GOP star who refused to shut down her state during the coronavirus pandemic, is said to be wavering on a bill passed by the legislature that would prevent biological boys from competing in girls’ athletic events.

In a series of tweets Friday, she pointed out possible legal loopholes in the bill and is asking lawmakers to make some adjustments so she can sign it.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported Friday that after saying she was “excited” to sign the bill, she is “wavering in her support for the legislation due to pressure from groups in South Dakota.”

The report said the NCAA, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and an Amazon plant in Sioux Falls have been overtly pressuring the governor to veto the bill.

But the plan has strong support from Republican and faith organizations in the state.

Noem said as recently as March 8 she wanted to sign the bill, which also establishes there are only two biological sexes, male and female, and there are “inherent” differences between men and women.

On Twitter, Noem said she’s returning the bill to lawmakers, asking them to make changes.

“I believe that boys should play boys’ sports, and girls should play girls’ sports. I’m returning House Bill 1217 with the following recommendations as to STYLE and FORM,” she wrote.

“As the legislative findings in the original version of the bill set out, ‘with respect to biological sex, one is either male or female.” The legislative findings also state ‘physiological differences between males and females include ‘those most important for success in sport: categorically different strength, speech, and endurance.’

“That is why House Bill 1217 properly provides that females should have opportunities to play youth sports on teams comprised of females and against teams of females.”

The problem, she explained, is that the “vague” language of the bill could create obstacles.

“For example, Section 2 of House bill 1217 requires a student athlete to verify, each year, that the student ‘is not taking and has not taken, during the preceding twelve months, any performance enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids.’ Presumably, this requirement was included to address a student taking these drugs as a part of a gender transition, but House Bill 1217 is not limited in this way. Rather, if a male student athlete failed to make the football team, and later learned that another student on the team was taking steroids without disclosing it, the student who didn’t make the team would be entitled to sue both the school and the steroid-user for damages.”

The same part of the bill also creates an “unworkable” administrative burden on schools to collect verification forms. And it imposes a requirement to monitor them. Such requirements also could impact collegiate athletics and how athletes qualify for competition on a national stage.

She said four changes are being recommended to HB 1217 in style and form.

They limit HB 1217 to elementary and secondary school athletics, which are controlled by South Dakota law. They also remedy vague language issues.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows for the law to treat women and men differently. In this instance that equal protection afforded women absolutely should apply on our state’s elementary and high school playing fields,” she wrote.

The issue is being addressed by a number of states because Biden administration policies open a door for males athletes who say they’re female to dominate women’s athletics.

The Daily Caller cited a study that found state lawmakers have introduced 61 pieces of legislation in 25 states criminalizing gender transition surgeries for children or requiring biological males to compete against biological males.

A recent poll found a majority of voters believe men should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports.

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