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S.D. governor bans transgender athletes from girls' sports

S.D. governor bans transgender athletes from girls' sports
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday issued executive orders to ban transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports after killing legislation she says would have opened the state to lawsuits. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

March 30 (UPI) -- South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued executive orders banning transgender girls and women athletes from competing in female sports at public schools after vetoing a more stringent legislative prohibition over concerns of litigation.

Noem, the state's Republican governor, issued one order that states only girls and women whose biological sex reflect their birth certificate may participate in girls' or women's athletic events sanctioned by a public school, district or association.

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The other order essentially recommends public universities in the state to follow the same ban.

The two executive orders were issued on Monday after South Dakota lawmakers failed to gain the two-thirds of both Houses necessary to override Noem's partial veto to H.B. 1217 over issues she had with its style and form.

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After the lawmakers' failure to override her veto, Noem issued her executive orders with a statement proclaiming "only girls should play girls' sports."

More than 25 states are considering controversial legislation to exclude transgender youth from athletics, including South Dakota, where the bill passed both the state's House and Senate earlier this month before being sent to Noem to be signed into law.

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Noem returned the bill to the legislators asking for amendments concerning a ban on performance-enhancing drugs that was not limited to protecting female athletes, onerous paperwork concerning checking and rechecking the students' biological status and issues at the collegiate level that would make it of litigious concern.

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Though Noem and proponents have characterized the bill as a way to keep sports fair for women athletes, transgender and human rights activists see it as an attack on transgender women and girls and a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"House Bill 1217 was never about leveling the playing field for student athletes. It was obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation was about creating solutions to problems that don't exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state," Jett Jonelis, advocacy manager at American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said in a statement after the veto stood. "Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people's lives like this. Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this."

After the bill passed earlier this month, Noem said she was "excited to sign" it, but conservatives and bill proponents have now accused her of killing it due to business interests and activist pressure.

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In a scathing statement, conservative think tank American Principles Project Executive Director Terry Schilling accused Noem of capitulating to "woke NCAA" and activist business interests.

"This failure to stand up when it mattered most will define Noem for the rest of her career and will certainly haunt her should she decide to run for any office in the future," Schilling said. "Conservatives will never forget it."

The NCAA has shown support of transgender athletes to compete in its competitions.

On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed his state's version of the law into being after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson did likewise days earlier.

Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law a similar bill earlier this month, making Mississippi the first state in the country to enact such legislation this year.

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