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South Dakota Rejects Fourth and Final Anti-Transgender Bill

South Dakota capitol

South Dakota lawmakers have defeated a bill that would bar transgender student athletes from playing on the teams matching their gender identity, so now all four anti-transgender bills considered in this session have failed.

A House vote on the measure, House Bill 1225, resulted in a 34-34 tie Monday night, meaning the legislation is dead, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. A House committee last week sent it to the full chamber without a recommendation on whether to pass it. A Senate committee had rejected a similar bill.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union’s South Dakota affiliate were “thrilled” that the bill failed, policy director Libby Skarin said in an online statement.

“All young people should have the opportunity to play high school sports and have their personal dignity respected. Transgender students are no different,” she said. “No one is harmed by allowing transgender people to compete consistent with who they are.” The vote sends “a clear message of inclusion and acceptance for our transgender friends and neighbors,” she added.

South Dakota had more anti-trans bills introduced this year than any other state, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which joined the ACLU and other groups in opposing them. Last week the Senate State Affairs Committee rejected a bill to prohibit mention of gender dysphoria in grades K-7 in public schools, after the measure had been passed by the House. Another anti-trans bill that failed would have allowed parents to “refuse consent to health care treatments for a minor child if the parent thought it would induce, confirm or promote the child's belief that their gender identity is different than their sex at birth,” the Associated Press reports.

This year’s results are a far cry from what happened in 2016, when both the House and Senate approved a bill that would have barred trans students from using the restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The bill was, however, vetoed by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association allows trans students to play on the sports teams matching their gender identity if they apply for and receive approval from the association.  A “very small number” of students have applied under the policy, adopted in 2015, executive director Dan Swartos told the AP. Legislators considered but rejected attempts to overturn the policy in 2015 and 2016.

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