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The audience audibly gasped at what one South Dakota state senator said on Saturday in support of a bathroom bill targeting transgender people in the state.
Republican State Sen. David Omdahl of Sioux Falls was taking part in a regular "Legislative Coffee" breakfast meeting with constituents, reports the Argus Leader, when the bathroom bill was raised by opponents in attendance.
He backs the bill, which would ban transgender people from using the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity.
"This is definitely a good bill. What's this about?" he asked rhetorically. "This is about protecting our children. I'm sorry if you're so twisted you don't know who you are."
That's when the audience gasped and was told to quiet down.
"I'm telling you right now it's about protecting the kids," Omdahl went on. "I don't even understand where our society is these days. You know, I look at what's going on in the military, etcetera. They're treating the wrong part of the anatomy. They ought to be treating it up here." Then he gestured to his head. "So yeah, my feeling is let's protect the children, let's get this bill passed to save our kids."
TV station KSFY caught up with people at the meeting, including the county Democratic chair, Heather Halverson, who called the comments "offensive and appalling." Kendra Heathscott, a trans woman and member of the Center for Equality, said Amdahl's comments promote bullying and misunderstanding of trans people, who she says aren't "may be struggling with depression because of comments like that."
Watch the reaction in the video below: