South Dakota Governor to Sign Bill Barring Biological Males from Girls Sports

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced late on Monday that she will sign a bill to restrict girls’ sports to biological females only.

“In South Dakota, we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports! I’m excited to sign this bill very soon,” the Republican governor announced.

The South Dakota Senate on the same day passed the proposed House Bill 1217 in a 20-15 vote. Republicans holds a 32-3 majority in the Senate.

Under the bill (pdf), any public school sports team that is for females “is available only to participants who are female, based on their biological sex.” The bill also requires that any athletic team or sport that is sponsored or sanctioned by most government educational entities “must be expressly designated” as being male, female, or coeducational.

The bill’s text says it is “an Act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports.” It had previously passed the South Dakota House 50-17 in late February. It was then voted down by the Senate State Affairs committee, but was revived last week after a full vote on the floor.

South Dakota state Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican, praised the move, saying he is “Flying high and humbly grateful” for the Senate’s approval of the bill and Noem’s intention to sign the bill. “SD will become the third state to protect women’s sports,” he announced on Twitter.

Deutsch also said on Monday in a separate post, “On international Women’s Day, remember that ‘woman’ is not a feeling, a political movement, an identity, a fashion or trend. A woman is a female. The more people who acknowledge that fact, the more chance we have of making the world a better place for women.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota called the bill “anti-trans.” A statement from the organization reads, “House Bill 1217 is a slap in the face to the schools and associations who’ve created successful and inclusive policies for athletes. We oppose House Bill 1217 because South Dakota already maintains separate sports teams for boys and girls and has a policy for including transgender athletes consistent with gender identity. There has been no dominance by transgender athletes, no threat to sports, and no other problems in the over 6 years since the policy was adopted.”

The Mississippi House and Arizona House recently passed similar bills earlier this month to limit female sports to biological females.

When President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, he signed an executive order aimed at stamping out discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation. Part of the order said, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked in February about what the Biden administration’s message or clarification would be in response to the competition that would be taking place between trans girls and cis girls, especially in high school sports that could lead to college scholarships. Psaki responded, “I would just say that the president’s belief is that trans rights are human rights, and that’s why he signed that executive order. And in terms of the determinations by universities and colleges, I’d certainly defer to them.”