South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed two executive orders (pdf) (pdf) Monday evening to limit participants in female sports to biological females. This comes after the state legislature failed to make proposed revisions to the bill that would have stopped transgender females from competing in girls and women’s sports.
“Only girls should play girls’ sports. Given the legislature’s failure to accept my proposed revisions to HB 1217, I am immediately signing two executive orders to address this issue: one to protect fairness in K-12 athletics, and another to do so in college athletics,” wrote Noem on Monday.
When HB 1217 was returned to the legislature for revisions, The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota criticized the state legislature’s efforts to ban transgender females from playing in women’s sports.
“House Bill 1217 has never been about leveling the playing field for student athletes,” said ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager Jett Jonelis in a March 25 press statement. “It’s been obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation is about creating a solution to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state.”
The governor, who had previously signaled her support for HB 1217, declined to sign the measure unless lawmakers accepted changes that would exclude collegiate sports from the ban. Because the changes to HB 1217 were not made by the legislature, the bill was considered vetoed and Noem decided to use her executive authority and ensure fairness in women’s sports.
Noem said the bill, without the revisions, would be challenged by civil and private groups and the state would lose at the collegiate level. She argued the bill’s passage would have negative consequences for South Dakota if the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or other organizations opposed to the ban decided to take legal action.
During a press conference, Noem said she was trying to avoid getting into expensive legal challenges that South Dakota would eventually lose.
“Just know that we could face retaliation [from groups like the NCAA], it’s more than likely, and then at that point in time we would have to sue, which would be a cost to the taxpayers, which based on advice from legal scholars across the country and constitutional and conservative scholars, they believe that our chances of winning that type of litigation would be small.”
Additionally, Noem said she will work with lawmakers in her state to schedule a special legislative session in late May or early June, where she will ask members to revisit the women in sports bill, medicinal marijuana, and the federal spending package.