Yankton Press & Dakotan. April 5, 2021.

Editorial: Transgender Battle: A Self-Inflicted Wound

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s recent transgender crusade continues to stagger through a minefield of her own making.

During the legislative session, Noem tried to push through a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports. The issue seemed to fly in out of nowhere, unless you took a broader view: It reflected efforts that Republican governors in at least three other states were pushing. Such simultaneous national political maneuvers are usually not coincidental.

The bill passed the Senate, died in House committee and was then revived, or “smoked out,” in the Senate, which passed the bill and sent it to the governor, who announced she was eager to sign the legislation.

But then something happened. Quite likely, the prospect that the bill would be struck down in court became apparent, and warnings were sounded that the NCAA might retaliate by barring or removing its postseason athletic events from the state, which would cost the state a chunk of revenue.

Noem waited, then vetoed the bill for “style and form,” claiming she wanted to change the language to exclude college events from the ban.

At this point, the governor, who had already upset proponents of transgender rights, now angered conservatives who accused her of gutting the original proposal of the measure.

Last week, the Legislature resoundingly rejected her veto and the bill went unsigned, thus killing it.

The governor then issued a pair of executive orders that vaguely banned transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports. The orders do not mention transgender athletes specifically but instead refer to biological sex.

Now, the governor speaks of convening a special legislative session to address the matter.

This has been a completely unforced error over an issue that virtually doesn’t exist in this state. And, as we stated before, the South Dakota High School Activities Association already has a procedure in place to assess each case on its merits.

Lawmakers on both sides of the issue are unhappy for a wide variety of reasons.

What’s more, none of the problems that come with the passage of such a measure — or the issuing of executive orders — have disappeared.

In particular, the boycott issue could be a costly and painful one for the state. As we’re seeing, more companies and groups are willing to take these stands to address what they see as injustices. Late last week, for instance, Major League Baseball announced it would move this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta due to Georgia’s recently passed election laws that critics condemn as racially discriminatory. It’s clear that such organizations, which are pressured from within their own ranks, are increasingly unafraid to flex their considerable muscle to make a political statement. (You can deride this as “cancel culture,” but what would you call what’s happening to transgender woman athletes?)

We reiterate, this is an example of someone trying to score political points by targeting a very small minority of people and exploiting what makes them different. Now, what was basically a non-issue in this state has turned into a major problem that is not only a no-win situation but is also diverting attention from several other issues in this state that need attention.

Ultimately, no good can come from this.


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