Gov. Kristi Noem won’t sign bill banning transgender men from female sports


Governor Kristi Noem may have just tanked her 2024 presidential campaign, as well as ended any prospect of being a running mate to Trump or DeSantis. This decision will be a costly one during the Republican Party primaries, Governor Noem.

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Gov. Kristi Noem won’t sign transgender sports bill

By Argus Leader, March 20, 2021

Gov. Kristi Noem is OK with a ban on trans girls playing girls’ sports in high school, but doesn’t want it extended to college athletics.

The first-term Republican governor said Friday in a news release that she is exercising her special power to make style and form changes to House Bill 1217, which as originally written would have required athletes participating in sanctioned sports in South Dakota to compete in events that align with their sex determined at birth.

Sponsored by Sioux Falls-area lawmakers Rep. Rhonda Milstead and Sen. Maggie Sutton, the measure would have applied to all K-12 and collegiate athletic events held in South Dakota.

But amid concerns over economic backlash and the potential for South Dakota to lose sanctioned sporting events like NCAA tournaments, Noem is sending the bill back to the Legislature.

“Unfortunately, as I have studied this legislation and conferred with legal experts over the past several days, I have become concerned that this bill’s vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences,” Noem said in a letter sent to media and legislators.

Short of vetoing the bill, the style-and-form recommendations require a simple majority of the Legislature to affirm the changes the governor wants.

Lawmakers who supported HB1217 aren’t happy.

Milstead, who earned a speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month to talk about what she says is a “fairness in women’s sports” issue, said she vehemently disagrees with the governor’s insistence that the bill needs modifications. And the use of a style-and-form “veto”, typically used to fix typos and clerical errors, is inappropriate, she said.

“Legislators are the ones who makes the laws and the governor signs them,” Milstead said. “She’s gutting the bill and writing a new law and that’s not her job.”

Noem’s decision not to sign the bill is an about-face from where she was the day it passed. When it cleared the Senate in early March, Noem expressed her excitement to sign the bill into law.

But earlier this week, she told the Argus Leader that she’d since determined there were unforeseen problems with the bill. And in her statement Friday, she said after consulting with attorneys and considering the emotional challenges facing young people, more precise language in such a law is necessary.

“Overall, these style and form clarifications protect women sports while also showing empathy for youths struggling with what they understand to be their gender identity,” Noem wrote. “But showing empathy does not mean a biologically-female-at birth woman should face an unbalanced playing field that effectively undermines the advances made by women and for women since the implementation of Title IX in 1972.”

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