Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill in South Dakota which would force transgender students to play for the sports team matching the gender on their birth certificate.
This would overturn the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s (SDHSAA) policy, adopted in 2015, which enables transgender children to play for sports teams which match their gender identity, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
Senate Bill 49, submitted on Monday (January 14) by State Senator Jim Bolin and State Representative Thomas Brunner, would make the gender on a student’s birth certificate the “sole determinant” of the teams they can play for.
State Senator Jim Bolin explains motivation behind transgender bill
Bolin brought a similar bill before the state’s Republican-controlled parliament in 2015, only for it to fail in the Senate after being passed by the House.
The Republican lawmaker, who has been a state senator for 10 years, said he introduced the latest anti-trans legislation to ensure “fair competition,” adding that he was trying to “bring the policy of Texas to South Dakota.”
Since 2016, students in Texas public high schools have only take part in sports under the gender on their birth certificate.
“I believe the [South Dakota] activities association is a very good group, but I think they made a bad decision when they implemented this policy four, five years ago,” said Bolin referring to the association’s inclusive policy allowing trans athletes to play for sports teams matching their gender identity.
Bolin added: “We have sports that are set up—boys go over 39-inch hurdles in 110 meters and girls have to clear 33-inch hurdles in 100-meter hurdles. We have a smaller ball for girls’ basketball than we do for boys’ basketball.
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“If we’re going to have these modifications, then my point is that the birth certificate should be the determining factor in which team you play on. It’s all about fair competition.”
LGBT activists to oppose South Dakota transgender bill
SDHSAA executive director Dan Swartos said his association would defend its policy, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota has come out against the legislation.
In a statement, the ACLU said Bolin and Brunner’s bill was an attempt to “codify discrimination against transgender youth under state law.”
Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota, called the legislation “yet another attempt to single transgender students out for discrimination in our state.”
“No one is harmed by allowing transgender people to compete consistent with who they are.”
— Libby Skarin
“And like the many bathroom bills before it, this bill would hurt transgender students, violate federal law and expose our state to legal liability,” said Skarin.
Skarin, who has been in her role since 2014, added that “barring transgender students from the benefits of athletics holds them back from living authentic and fulfilling lives.”
She said that sport brings “a sense of belonging—a sense that is important for all kids, but particularly vital for kids who may already feel like outcasts.”
“No one is harmed by allowing transgender people to compete consistent with who they are,” Skarin said.