Colman Domingo
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South Dakota Republicans Revive Anti-Trans Birth Certificate Bill

trans South Dakotans protesting

South Dakota Republicans have revived a proposed law that targets trans indivuduals by making it illegal for people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.

The proposed law was brought back to a vote in the full South Dakota House of Representatives after it was rejected previously by a committee, but Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from Watertown, said that he heard from fellow Republicans that they wanted to debate and vote on the bill in front of the whole House.

The committee had voted 7-to-6 to dismiss the bill, with five Republicans and two Democrats opposing it. But Republicans forced the bill to be brought to a vote through a procedure known as a “smoke out.”

According to the South Dakota ACLU, a “smoke out” is “an act which invokes of Joint Rule 7-7 whereby one-third of the members of a house can require a committee to deliver a bill to the full body by the next legislative day.”

Because at least one-third of the House supported the move, the bill will be delivered for consideration in front of the full chamber by Wednesday.

Deutsch has been a leader on anti-trans bills in South Dakota, pushing a bill that would have banned puberty blockers and gender affirming surgery for trans youth under age 16 last year. He also introduced a bill in 2016 that would have limited bathroom and locker room use by trans students. Neither of those bills became laws, as the 2016 bill was vetoed by former Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and the 2020 bill was halted in the state senate.

“It’s incredibly disrespectful that we have to address this every year. It’s infuriating,” Democratic Rep. Erin Healy said. “We are disrupting the lives of a vulnerable population, and I think what we are missing today is empathy and compassion.”

Seymour Otterman, a nonbinary person who testified in front of lawmakers about their experiences as a trans South Dakotan. “I want transgender people to know they have a home here, a family here,” they said. Otterman added that they’re not surprised the bills keep coming up, though. They said, “in most places in South Dakota, it is a very lonely, isolating experience because of this sentiment.”

Healy added that it’s exhausting having to constantly fight these same fights. “It’s an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “To be so happy and relieved that it died, only to see it resurrected and have that threat all over again.”

As the new legislative sessions began this year, at least 14 states have laws that target the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, with many of them, like South Dakota’s, aiming at trans youth specifically.

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