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Breaking: South Dakota Legislature Unleashes Second Attack on Trans Kids in Just Two Days

by Stephen Peters February 17, 2016

As the nation waits to see if Governor Dennis Daugaard will veto the vile piece of legislation targeting transgender children that the South Dakota Senate passed yesterday, today the state’s House State Affairs Committee voted 8 to 4 to advance yet another shameful attack on trans kids. HB 1209, which is wholly different from the bill that passed yesterday, focuses in on birth certificates in a veiled attempt to block transgender kids from participating in sports programs and other activities in a manner that’s consistent with their gender identity. The bill would have a broad array of unintended consequences for all South Dakotans because it would require any public body to accept as valid all information on a person's birth certificate - even if that information is outdated and incorrect. HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota condemned the vote and demanded the South Dakota Legislature stop the attacks.

“These discriminatory and shameful attacks against South Dakota’s children must stop,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  “Trans kids are among the most vulnerable in all of South Dakota, and this legislative onslaught against their rights, their dignity, and their future is disgraceful.  In their legislative assault, the legislature is advancing bills that are not only tremendously bad policy, but bring with them a slew of unintended consequences for all South Dakotans.  We call on all legislators in South Dakota to focus on the issues that matter to your constituents, not some absurd and harmful solution in search of a non-existent problem.”

“Proponents have made it clear that this bill is an attack on the very existence of transgender people and their ability to live in society openly and on their own terms,” said ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Libby Skarin. “This morning’s testimony only made it more obvious that the entire anti-transgender slate of bills being considered by the South Dakota Legislature is motivated by anti-transgender animus and not any actual problem that needs to be solved.”

This bill is the most recent example of the legislature’s attack on transgender South Dakotans. HB 1209 shares many of the same sponsors as HB 1112, which was passed by the full South Dakota House of Representatives last week, and it was prompted by the same motivation: to keep transgender kids from being able to participate in sports teams consistent with their gender identity. But HB 1209 goes even farther - by focusing on birth certificates and expanding its discriminatory reach to transgender adults. It would have broad, unintended consequences for all South Dakotans because it would require any public body of the state to accept as valid all information on a person’s birth certificate. That means the gender marker on a birth certificate would have to be taken as determinative even if it was inconsistent with a student’s gender identity; it also means that name changes, legal parentage, and other information about a person that may differ from what is recorded about them moments after their birth will also have to be accepted as true even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  The absurd consequences of this bill demonstrate how far the South Dakota Legislature is willing to go in their haste to demean and disrespect transgender people.  

These attacks against transgender people continue to mount: just yesterday, the South Dakota Senate passed extreme and dangerous legislation, HB 1008, that attacks the rights of transgender children in public schools and prevents them from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.  If signed by the Governor, South Dakota would be in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and non-discrimination protections under Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972.  The Senate ignored the plea of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to abandon the discriminatory bill, and South Dakota schools are incredibly concerned about the expensive legal costs this discriminatory legislation would force them to pay in resulting legal challenges.  If this bill becomes law, South Dakota will be the first state in the nation to pass a law attacking transgender children.

In addition to HB 1008, HB 1112, and HB 1209, a fourth bill is also on the move. Just last week, the full South Dakota House of Representatives passed HB 1107 – legislation that would explicitly authorize recipients of taxpayer funds or other state recognition to discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender people, and single mothers. Disguised as an attempt to protect religious beliefs, HB 1107 would authorize practically anyone to wield religion as a sword of discrimination against LGBT South Dakotans and single mothers without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, employment, or other forms of state recognition.

Working to stop such discriminatory legislation, HRC is fighting alongside local advocates at the ACLU of South Dakota to ensure LGBT residents and visitors across the Mount Rushmore State are treated with dignity and respect.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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