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80,000 Reasons to Veto: South Dakota Gov Must Block Vile Legislation Attacking Transgender Kids

by Stephen Peters February 23, 2016

Today, HRC joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of South Dakota, Believe Out Loud and Reconciling Ministries, Freedom for All Americans, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Transgender Law Center to deliver over 80,000 petition signatures to South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard urging him to veto HB 1008 – legislation that would prevent transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. This outrageous legislation would make South Dakota the first state in the nation to pass a law attacking transgender children, and has earned widespread criticism from leading children’s medical and advocacy organizations.

“HB 1008 is a shameful attack on the rights, well-being, and dignity of South Dakota’s transgender kids,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Transgender youth need and deserve our support -- not this deplorable and mean-spirited effort by state lawmakers to further exclude and marginalize them at school. We are proud to stand today with tens of thousands of South Dakotans and fair-minded Americans to demand that Governor Daugaard veto this outrageous legislation.”

"I have met trans students in South Dakota and they deserve much better than this,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The schools are the experts on students, not the legislators. The schools know this bill solves no existing problems. It just causes new ones."

"More than 80,000 people have taken time to sign petitions in support of South Dakota's transgender students,” said Heather Smith, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “With the delivery of these signatures, we hope that transgender children get the message that South Dakota and the entire country have their backs. These names signify that Governor Daugaard has clear support from students, community members, faith leaders, counselors, and South Dakotans around the state to veto this discriminatory bill."

In a meeting organized by the Center for Equality, Gov. Daugaard is scheduled to meet with transgender students today to hear their personal stories and how this legislation would impact their lives. He has also met with the bill’s sponsors.

In an open letter to the nation’s governors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association all expressed their grave concerns and objections to this type of legislation attacking transgender youth. The seven national health, education, and child advocacy groups said:

“All of our nation’s children deserve equal protections and treatment in their classrooms; these anti-transgender bills foster discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities….We stand in opposition to these shameful bills, and, on behalf of our members and communities, call on governors across the country to reject these harmful measures if they reach their desks. Every student deserves equal access to education, academic success, and a future in which they are empowered to fulfill their true potential, and these laws contravene that fundamental principle, which has long guided our nation’s education policy.”

Yesterday, in a heartfelt open letter to Gov. Daugaard in The Argus Leader, Wayne Maines, the father of a transgender daughter, pleaded with the Governor to stop the legislation, saying:

“Transgender children across the nation go to school everyday afraid – a survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings. They sit in class and learn about powerful words, like courage, freedom and equality. Words that transgender people know well and dream will one day be true. Words that some of our leaders talk about but have forgotten how to use. If I could meet with you and your fellow governors, I would sit down with you and ask, ‘What are you afraid of?’ These kids just want to go to the bathroom, maybe visit with their friends to discuss their day, to laugh and just be kids. Why does it have to so hard? Their classmates do not care and they are not afraid. It is time to listen, watch and learn from them to understand that being transgender is not a big deal.”

While South Dakota would be the first state in the nation to pass legislation attacking transgender people, anti-LGBT lawmakers in other states are pursuing similar legislation. In total, 44 anti-transgender bills -- including 23 bills targeting children's’ access to restrooms and sports programs -- are pending across 16 states. The Human Rights Campaign released a report on this disturbing trend yesterday; more details and a state-by-state breakdown of information can be found here.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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