The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban teaching about transgender people in public schools.
Lawmakers in the state gave the green light to HB 1108, which seeks to block teachers from acknowledging the existence of transgender people to young people in classrooms, on Tuesday (February 12).
The bill says: “No instruction in gender dysphoria may be provided to any student in kindergarten through grade seven in any public school in the state.”
The proposal passed by a vote of 39-30 in the 70 seat chamber, where the Republican Party has a large majority.
South Dakota anti-transgender bill ‘harmful’ to young people
LGBT+ campaigners hit out at the proposal, warning that it could prevent teachers from providing any support to young transgender people.
Cathryn Oakley of LGBT+ campaigning group Human Rights Campaign said: “The intent of this legislation is clearly to discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming South Dakotans.
“If HB 1108 were to become law, it would send a strong message to LGBTQ youth that they are less than their peers.”
Oakley added: “South Dakota was the first state to introduce anti-transgender legislation that would bar trans kids from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity, and it seems intent on being on the forefront of discrimination yet again, at the risk being out of step with the rest of the country.
“We implore the Senate to vote against this harmful legislation.”
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Libby Skarin of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota added: “[We are] disappointed that South Dakota’s representatives voted to pass House Bill 1108.
“It is this type of hostility toward young transgender people from adult leaders that contributes to the high rates of depression and even suicide among transgender young people in our state. But the fight is not over.
“Our commitment to ensuring that transgender South Dakotans can live openly without discrimination remains strong and urges South Dakota lawmakers to stop hurting transgender youth.”
South Dakota anti-transgender bill would be on ‘forefront of discrimination’
The bill will now head to the South Dakota Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans.
If it clears the legislature, the bill would then head to the desk of South Dakota’s Republican governor Kristi Noem.
And, if passed, the state would become the first to explicitly restrict teaching on trans issues, though wider laws restricting teaching about LGBT+ issues are not a new battle in the US.
Seven states still maintain ‘no promo homo’ laws, which actively restrict schools teaching about homosexuality.
Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas maintain laws barring the “promotion of homosexual relationships” in schools.
Some of the laws have been criticised for being damaging—with Arizona explicitly restricting teaching about “safe methods of homosexual sex.”