The South Dakota Legislature returned from Presidents’ Day recess and made national news Tuesday by becoming the first state to pass legislation aimed at limiting transgender students’ use of restrooms.
“What a sad day for South Dakota,” tweeted Libby Skarin, the ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director.
The so-called “bathroom bill,” which would limit transgender students’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms, was passed in the Senate in a 20-15 vote. The measure would bar students from using facilities that match their transgender identities.
The bill is now heading to Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s desk.
“Governor Daugaard has not yet taken a position on the bill,” said Kelsey Pritchard, spokesperson for the Governor’s Office to The Volante Tuesday evening. “Before he makes a decision, he will research the issue and listen to testimony from both sides.”
Under the plan, schools would have to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students, such as a single-occupancy bathroom or the “controlled use” of a staff-designated restroom, locker room or shower room.
“The Republican leadership of South Dakota’s legislature has disgracefully failed to fulfill its most fundamental obligation – to protect the state’s young people from harm,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
There is also concern schools in the state could lose federal funding. The Obama administration has argued that Title IX bans transgender discrimination.
“We urge (Daugaard) in the strongest possible terms to veto this legislation, and to engage in thoughtful dialogue with his transgender constituents, especially South Dakota’s transgender children,” Griffin said.
Republican Sen. Brock Greenfield of Clark, S.D., said he doesn’t mean any disrespect by bringing the bill forward.
“We’re talking about our youth co-mingling in bathrooms,” Brock said on the Senate floor. “A lot of my constituents approached me and said that just doesn’t jive with them.”
The Human Rights Campaign is firing back with a social media campaign aimed at Daugaard.
“South Dakota’s shameful attack on trans kids heads to the governor’s desk. Share now to let Governor Daugaard – who says he’s never met a trans person – know that your stand in support of all South Dakota kids,” the organization said in a tweet.
Across the border in Iowa, lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday to make it a hate crime to commit an offense against a person that identifies as transgender. That bill has to pass through the full Senate Judiciary Committee by Friday to stay alive this season.
Another hot topic in Pierre, teacher pay, was up for debate, but the key measure to fund the plan was delayed for the second time in the House.
The voting of the proposed half-cent sales tax hike that would fund Daugaard’s plan to raise teacher salaries was delayed using a procedural move to postpone debate until next week.
If the bill passes in the House, it still has to go through the Senate.
House Republican Leader Brian Gosch is pursuing a teacher pay hike without increasing taxes.
The Governor’s Office has said Daugaard is optimistic about his plan to raise South Dakota’s lowest-in-the-nation teacher compensation. It will take two-thirds support in each chamber to pass a tax increase.