South Dakota House Rejects Governor Noem’s Transgender Sports Bill Veto

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Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla., February 27, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

The South Dakota House on Monday voted 67-2 to override Governor Kristi Noem’s style and form veto for a bill restricting girls’ sports at public schools to female students.

Noem attempted to rewrite several sections of the bill, citing concerns that if it were to become law it would result in punitive action from organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and American Civil Liberties Union.

Instead of outright vetoing the bill, she recommended “style and form” changes to exempt collegiate sports from the bill.

However, a number of Republican state lawmakers have criticized the governor’s changes, arguing that the proposed tweaks go beyond style and form and would render the bill meaningless.

Now the bill heads back to Noem’s desk, where she can either choose to sign it, or it will go back to the legislature as a vetoed bill, which would require a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to override, according to the Argus Leader.

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The governor is expected to call a special session to consider a new bill that would include the changes she has proposed, according to the paper.

After the bill passed the state Senate last month in a 20-15 vote, Noem had indicated she would sign the bill into law, before quickly changing her mind and frustrating her fellow Republicans.

The ACLU of South Dakota has criticized the Women’s Fairness in Sports bill, which was introduced by State Representative Rhonda Milstead and passed the South Dakota House last month 50-17, according to KOTA TV.

An ACLU advocacy manager, Jett Jonelis, testified against the bill: “In an attempt to ‘level the playing field,’ House Bill 1217 excludes an entire group of women and girls from meaningful participation in sports,” Jonelis said.

“House Bill 1217 isn’t about protecting fairness in women’s sports,” he said. “It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life.”

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