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S.D. governor ‘sad’ most LGBTQ people have suffered anxiety, depression

Kristi Noem signed bill banning trans athletes from school sports teams

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South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem (Screenshot via YouTube)

During her weekly press conference Thursday, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was asked by a reporter her opinion of the fact that nearly 90 percent of the LGBTQ community in South Dakota reported dealing with anxiety or depression.

“I don’t know,” Noem responded. “That makes me sad, and we should figure it out.”

Critics were quick to point out that the governor’s answer was disingenuous since she had helped draft, pass, and then sign into law Senate Bill 46, which bans trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. With her signature, she became the first governor to sign discriminatory anti-transgender legislation into law in 2022.

One high profile opposition response came in the form of a Tweet from Principal White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who wrote: “Here’s a start for you, governor. 1. Don’t advance policies that attack trans youth, 2. Don’t fund ads attacking LGBT youth, 3. support @POTUS’ agenda to enhance support for youth mental health needs, with funding made available through the American Rescue Plan.”

The question to the governor was attributed to a recent report by HelpAdvisor, a health and health care coverage assistance site, that analyzed rates of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ people across the U.S. At 87 percent, South Dakota had the highest rate of LGBTQ residents reporting those mental health conditions, compared to 63 percent nationally.

According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of trans and non-binary youth. However, LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity — including schools — reported lower rates of attempting suicide than those who did not.

A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Trevor Project found that 85 percent of trans and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of trans people have negatively impacted their mental health. When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of trans and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

Noem gives legislative update: Feb. 17, 2022

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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signs first anti-Trans bill of 2022 into law

“SB 46 attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist- slamming the door shut for Trans student athletes to fully participate”

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Republican Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

The Republican Governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 46 into law Thursday effectively keeping Trans students, especially Trans women and girls, from playing on women’s and girls sports teams which would affirm their gender identity. 

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ+) young people, condemned Noem for signing what the organization is listing as the first anti-transgender bill of the year into law in the nation.

“At a time when young people are facing an unprecedented need for support, it is devastating to see politicians instead invent new ways to exclude them,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “We want to remind every young trans person watching tonight that there are more people fighting for you than against you. We have your back, and we will continue working with our partners and advocates on the ground to challenge these laws and ensure that all youth have the support they need to survive and thrive.”

The Argus Leader, the daily newspaper of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reported that opponents of this legislation say it’s likely to bring a lawsuit. The text of the bill states that any student suffering direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the bill can sue the district or university; the state attorney general will represent the school, district or college that’s sued.

SB 46 was first heard in the Senate State Affairs committee last month, where it passed on an 8-1 vote. The sole dissenter was Sen. Troy Heinert, who said it would send a message that trans children aren’t welcome in the state, the Argus Leader also noted.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about new policies that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and transgender boys from playing on boys’ sports teams, 74% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 57% felt sad, 43% felt stressed, and nearly 1 in 3 felt scared.

When the bill was being considered in the House State Affairs committee, it passed on an 11-2 vote, but not without arguments from Noem’s general counsel and chief of staff Mark Miller who said transgender peoples’ participation in sports is akin to terrorism.

“Senate Bill 46 attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while slamming the door shut for transgender student athletes to fully participate in their school communities,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Transgender students participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, to stay fit and healthy and to be a part of a team. Trans students’ humanity, dignity, and ability to be full members of their school communities should never be up for debate like this.”

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem proposes anti-Trans sports bill

Noem’s draft legislation would codify two executive orders – one for K-12 students and the other for the collegiate level.

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South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem (Blade screenshot via Forbes YouTube)

PIERRE – Months after vetoing an anti-trans sports bill, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem proposed legislation last week to bar trans women and girls from playing sports. 

Noem’s draft legislation would codify two executive orders – one for K-12 students and the other for the collegiate level – she wrote shortly after vetoing a state Republican anti-trans sports bill. 

Her first order stated that “only females, based on their biological sex, as reflected on ther birth certificate or affidavit provided upon initial enrollment” can participate in women’s school sports. The second made a similar declaration for college sports. 

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, South Dakota High School Activities Association still allows trans student-athletes to compete.

The proposed bill also states that if an athlete suffers direct or indirect harm due to violation of the legislation, that student has a private cause of action for relief against the school, athletic organization or college that caused the harm.

The two executive orders came after Noem praised but vetoed anti-trans legislation that the Republican-controlled state legislature passed, fearing the NCAA would take the state to court over the bill. 

“This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,” Noem said in a press release. “Those flawed provisions would have led to litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes – male and female alike.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota condemned Noem’s proposed legislation, calling it a solution in search of a problem. 

“Let’s be clear: Noem’s proposed legislation is an attack on transgender women and girls,” wrote Jett Jonelis, Advocacy Manager for the ACLU of South Dakota.

According to the organization, the bill is also illegal, violating the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protects students – including trans ones – from sex discrimination. 

“This proposed legislation is clearly fueled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state,” Jonelis said.

Noem claimed that the bill was “about fairness,” saying: “Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports. Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way.”

However, Jonelis said that if Noem’s concerns were really about “fairness” in women’s sports, she would “tackle the actual threats to women’s sports such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches.”

“Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people’s lives like this,” Jonelis continued. “Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this. Legislation like Noem’s proposed bill has been discussed and defeated before. It’s time to move on.”

The bill is the eighth attempt to ban trans athletes from competing in sports in accordance with their gender identity, according to the ACLU of South Dakota. All of the proposals failed. 

The next legislative session in South Dakota begins on January 11, 2022.

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