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SD Poised to See More Debate Over LGBTQ Bills


Monday, January 10, 2022   

South Dakota lawmakers are scheduled to begin a new legislative session this week. Like previous years, bills surrounding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning matters are being floated - and advocates say it's another attempt to make that community feel less welcome.

Last year saw the state debate issues such as banning transgender girls and women from participating in team sports matching their gender identity. Gov. Kristi Noem is proposing that idea again this year.

Susan Williams, executive director of the Transformation Project Advocacy Network, said LGBTQ individuals see what's happening as a threat to their presence.

"When the Legislature spends a big amount of time and energy on something that affects a very small portion of South Dakotans, and it's discriminatory as well," said Williams, "it just feels so awful to them."

Supporters of the bills cite the need for fair competition among athletes, as well as religious-freedom protections. Sponsors deny they are trying to discriminate against anyone.

Another proposal that's surfaced would designate school bathrooms and locker room use as single-sex defined by birth, meaning trans students would be restricted in using rooms matching their gender identity. That plan also would allow for lawsuits if another student observes a violation.

Williams said she does see hope in that more parents of transgender students have been active in appealing to elected officials from their communities. She said the next challenge is to get more of the bill's sponsors to hear personal stories.

"Talk to transgender students," said Williams, "to talk to teachers who see these students going through things."

She said these conversations would be especially helpful when it comes to the bathroom-use bill, noting that in districts where such restrictions are already in place, they creates serious problems for transgender students.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union say the Legislature needs to focus on more pressing matters, such as education funding and child care.

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