Equity & Diversity

National Groups, Celebrities Tell S.D. Governor to Veto Transgender Student Bill

By Evie Blad — February 24, 2016 2 min read
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As Republican South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard decides whether he will sign a bill that would restrict transgender students’ access to school restrooms and locker rooms, he faces pressure from celebrities and national advocacy groups to veto it.

HB 1008 would create the first state-level restrictions for such access. As I wrote last week, the bill would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex, defined as “the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth,” even if that sex doesn’t match the gender they identify with.

Supporters say the bill will provide clarity for school districts about a complicated legal issue. Some lawmakers also argued that it is a concern for parents when children with different anatomy use the same facilities. Conservative groups who’ve voiced support for the bill include the Heritage Foundation.

So who’s against the bill? For one, Caitlyn Jenner, who raised the profile of gender identity issues after her recent gender transition. For another, “Orange is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox.

And last week, a group of national organizations signed onto an open letter calling on states, including South Dakota, to reject bills that they say unfairly target transgender youths.

“Transgender kids are already at heightened risk for violence, bullying and harassment, and these bills exacerbate those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest and most supported. In addition, students who would be affected by these bills are among our most vulnerable to experiencing depression and engaging in self harm, including suicide,” said the letter, which was signed by 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.

Daugaard has until March 1 to decide if he will sign the bill, the Argus Leader reports.

After saying he’s never knowingly met a transgender person, Daugaard accepted an invitation to meet with a group of transgender students this week.

“It helped me see things through their eyes a little better and see more of their perspective,” Daugaard told the paper.

In a related video, two transgender students discussed meeting with the governor about the bill.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.