South Dakota 'Don't Say Trans' Bill Fails

Trans protect

South Dakota lawmakers’ effort to ban discussion of transgender identity and issues in schools is dead for this session.

The Senate State Affairs Committee Friday rejected a bill to prohibit mention of gender dysphoria in grades K-7 in public schools, the Associated Press reports. The bill had passed the state House of Representatives last week.

The committee voted 7-2 to defer House Bill 1108 to the 41st day of the legislative session, which blocks it for this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota tweeted. The ACLU had opposed the measure.

It “would have prevented teachers from engaging with transgender students anytime they are bullied or targeted because of their gender identity — a sad reality for transgender youth across the country,” noted a press release from the National Center for Transgender Equality. It is the third anti-transgender bill to fail in South Dakota this session, but a fourth one, which would put restrictions on transgender student athletes, remains pending.

“After the failure of two previous bills targeting transgender people, this bill’s death should serve as third strike for the state legislature,” NCTE executive director Mara Keisling said in the release. “Throughout this process, it’s become clear these bills have nothing to do with safety or concern for children and far more to do with fear based on ignorance. 

“While we are still watching a fourth bill that would severely limit transgender students from playing sports, we send our congratulations to transgender South Dakotans, their families, and allies who testified against this bill and worked tirelessly to replace such prejudice with their acceptance and love.”

“I am so relieved that today the Senate State Affairs Committee in South Dakota voted down HB 1108, a bill that tried to bar mention of trans people and transness in grades K-7,”Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the national ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, told The Advocate Friday. “Bill proponents focused on their fear that young children would ‘become trans’ if they were exposed to any mention or support of trans people.  They did not pay lip service to notions of ‘privacy’ or ‘safety’ as we see in debates over bathroom bills but revealed the true motivation behind anti-trans measures: to eradicate us from existence.

“Before the hearing, committee members were sent a letter from the family and friends of South Dakota trans advocate Terri Bruce, who died by suicide in December after spending years advocating for trans youth at the capitol in Pierre. They wrote, ‘This legislation reinforces the incorrect notion that transgender students are not entitled to the same dignity and respect as all students. It suggests that a group of people are so shameful to others that they should not be mentioned in schools, that they should not find support among their teachers and peers. What a horrible message to send to young people trying to find themselves in this world. Terri believed in the exact opposite message. He believed in telling young people that they are loved and deserve love and support in this world. For Terri and for all trans people in South Dakota, we hope that our lawmakers can act on the side of compassion and care.’ Thankfully the committee saw the destruction and pain caused by this measure and voted it down. There are still anti-trans bills pending in South Dakota and elsewhere across the country and we will remain vigilant in the fight to protect our community.”

The bill on athletics would prevent trans students from participating on teams that align with their gender identity. The South Dakota High School Activities Association currently allows trans students to play on the teams of their choice, but the measure would end this policy, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. Now under consideration by the state House, it is similar to one that already failed in the Senate.

The House Health and Human Services Committee deadlocked 6-6 in a vote on the bill Thursday, then voted 8-4 to send it to the full House without a recommendation on whether to pass it or not. Libby Skarin, policy director at the ACLU of South Dakota, told the Argus Leader it’s “frustrating and disappointing” that debate on the measure will continue.

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