Noem asks lawmakers to reconsider girls' sports legislation

South Dakota legislature passed a similar bill earlier this year, but Noem vetoed the bill, saying it would be subject to legal challenges.
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem
(Bill Clark/Getty)

Gov. Kristi Noem is asking the South Dakota Legislature to reintroduce a bill that would require participants on women's and girls’ sports teams at the K-12 and collegiate level to have been designated as "female” at birth.

The South Dakota General Assembly passed a similar bill earlier this year, but Noem vetoed the bill, saying it would be subject to legal challenges. Noem issued executive orders similar to the bills after lawmakers did not override her veto. In a letter to lawmakers, she asked them to look at legislation under consideration in 30 other states.

The bill proposed by Noem on Tuesday defines “biological sex” as “the sex listed on the student's official birth certificate issued at or near the time of the athlete’s birth.”

“This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,” Noem said in a news release. “Those flawed provisions would have led to litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes – male and female alike.”

The draft legislation would protect schools from liability for complying with the proposed law. The bill also would allow athletes affected by a violation of the law to the school, the district, Board of Regents or other entity to seek a “private cause of action for injunctive relief and any other equitable relief available under law,” according to the draft version of the bill.

The type of legislation has been discussed and defeated before and “it’s time to move on,” the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said in a Twitter post.

“With serious issues like education funding and tenuous state-tribal relations, it’s disturbing that we keep coming back to the same discriminatory issues year after year,” the organization said in a subsequent tweet.

Noem said the bill is about fairness.

“Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition,” Noem said in a statement. “It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports. Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way.”