Stand with women athletes against transgender ideology, groups ask South Dakota governor

South Dakota state capitol South Dakota state capitol/ oleprophoto/Shutterstock

As South Dakota’s governor has proposed changes to a transgender sports law, conservative organizations are asking her to abandon her changes which would “gut” the law.

The legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which advocates for religious freedom, joined other groups in a March 29 open letter to Gov. Kristi Noem (R) asking her to sign House Bill 1217. The bill prohibits males identifying as transgender females from playing women’s sports, and gives women a legal remedy if they have to compete against males.

The letter, led by the Colorado Family Policy Alliance and signed by 47 national and state policy leaders, asked Noem to reconsider her March 19 “style and form” veto of HB 1217.

“We are already part of a large coalition defending female athletes across the country, and we are inviting you to join with us by supporting legislation that protects all women—kindergarten to college— and provides them with a legal remedy when their rights are violated, as HB 1217 does,” the letter stated.

The state legislature passed HB 1217 earlier in March, but Noem vetoed the bill and proposed changes. She struck sections that applied the restrictions to college athletics, and which allowed legal remedies for female athletes.

Noem, while maintaining she believed “girls should play girls’ sports based on their birth certificates,” argued that the former section would invite tough lawsuits from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The latter section, she said, was too broad and could allow lawsuits against athletes who committed performance-enhancing drug violations, not just lawsuits against athletes who took hormone therapy.

Noem’s proposals would effectively gut the bill, the open letter argued.  

“Gutting the bill doesn’t help anyone win—it sends South Dakota and their girls and women back to the sidelines and sends the wrong signal to others across the country in the fight to save girls’ and women’s sports,” the letter stated.

The letter said that the original legislation is needed to provide complete and effective enforcement of the policy. ADF and other conservative groups have argued that bill’s college sports provision is necessary to protect the integrity of all women’s sports.

“The NCAA itself doesn’t require its member schools to allow biological males who identify as female on female teams. But even if it did have such a policy, we’d still rather stand proudly with female athletes than those who stand to profit off of them,” the letter stated.

The original bill “protects all female athletes in South Dakota, not just those in high school or middle school,” the letter stated. “Your version of the bill would hand South Dakota’s collegiate female athletes—and a say in your state’s governance—to the NCAA on a silver platter.”

The letter also said that the bill “gives South Dakota’s female athletes the power to take action if a school district or other entity ignores the law by permitting men in their competitions.” Without this provision, the bill lacks real enforcement and “becomes a feel-good statement with no real teeth,” the letter stated.

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