The South Dakota Senate State Affairs Committee voted to advance proposed legislation backed by Gov. Kristi Noem that would prohibit biological males from competing in women and girls’ sports leagues at schools and universities.
The committee is comprised of nine members, including eight Republicans and one Democrat. The legislation, dubbed Senate Bill 46, advanced along party lines by a margin of eight votes to one on Friday, with the one Democrat voting in opposition, according to KELO.
“Only female athletes, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls,” Noem’s bill states.
“The new bill adds that students who suffer harm by violations of the law will be awarded grounds to sue a school district, sports league, or college for such violations,” Breitbart News previously reported. “A two-year statute of limitations is also appended to any particular incident.”
According to the Associated Press:
Groups representing public schools said politicians are forcing them to choose between violating state law or federal policy. The Associated School Boards warned that schools could lose federal funds if an investigation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found them to have violated students’ rights.
Critics argue that the bill will make public schools susceptible to legal challenges, but Noem took steps to amend the bill to absolve schools and higher education institutions from potential legal costs, the Associated Press reports. South Dakota “would provide legal representation and pay the costs of any lawsuits,” according to the outlet.
“Mark Miller, the governor’s chief of staff, insisted that the proposed law complied with the Constitution, that other states had successfully implemented similar laws and the state would prevail in court if sued,” the Associated Press reports.
Last year, Noem vetoed a similar bill citing flaws that “put the state at risk of litigation and retribution from the NCAA,” per the Associated Press.
Passage of SB 46 would make South Dakota the tenth state to implement a ban, though federal judges have halted similar restrictions in West Virginia and Idaho.
Most of the opposition to SB 46 during Friday’s session in the legislative committee came from parents and school representatives, KELO reports.
“Passage of this bill would directly hurt children,” said Jennifer Phalen, whose child is transgender, according to the Associated Press. “It would directly hurt my daughter and take away her freedom to participate in activities with her peers.”
“As a parent, I don’t really care if she becomes an elite athlete, but I want her to have the experiences of being on a team,” Phalen added.
In the late afternoon Friday, Gov. Noem released a statement on the legislation, which reads in part:
When our children participate in sports and activities, they learn valuable lessons like teamwork, perseverance, and hustle. For many activities, the playing field is level for boys and girls: debate, theater, and academic competitions, to name a few. But for other activities, the playing field is not equal between boys and girls because of basic, common-sense biology.
Allyson Felix is an American track and field star. She has won 25 Olympic and World Championship medals, including 17 gold medals, the most of any track and field athlete ever – male or female. She specialized in the 400-meter race, with a lifetime best of forty-nine-point-two-six seconds. Yet HUNDREDS of high school aged boys have run faster times than that. Common sense tells us why. Boys’ and girls’ bodies are biologically different.
We will establish a framework that will allow parents to challenge schools that allow students who are born male at birth to compete in girls’ sports. The legislation I am proposing includes the ability for a parent to hold schools accountable in court. Parents will be able to sue to play, not to pay. This is not about creating financial windfalls — it is about ensuring parents have the tools to fight for their daughter’s ability to compete on a level playing field.
Fairness in Girls’ Sports Matters: https://t.co/iOpTw36y8E
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) January 14, 2022
The state Senate committee’s passing of the bill comes as University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas, a biological male competing for the university’s women’s team, has sparked outrage. Thomas has been dominating the competition this season. During an interview with the Washington Examiner, an anonymous teammate claimed Thomas “compares herself to Jackie Robinson.”