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South Dakota Governor Signs Transgender Athlete Ban Into Law

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed a bill into law Thursday that bans transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams.

Noem’s signature makes South Dakota the 10th state to enact such a law and the first to do so in 2022. Under the legislation, anyone competing on a female sports team must have “female” “listed on the athlete’s official birth certificate issued at or near the time of the athlete’s birth,” essentially excluding transgender girls and women from competing.

At a press conference for the bill’s signing, Noem painted the move as an opportunity for some girls.

“This bill has been an important priority for a lot of the people behind me,” she said, “and I appreciate all of their hard work in making sure that girls will always have the opportunity to play in girls sports in South Dakota and have an opportunity for a level playing field, for fairness, that gives them the chance to experience success.”

Proponents of transgender athlete bans ― a legislative movement that became popular with the GOP last year ― argue that transgender girls have an unfair advantage in sports because of their testosterone levels. But in reality, there is no documented pattern of transgender athletes taking away opportunities from cisgender athletes.

Major athletic organizations have rejected the one-size-fits-all approach Noem and other red-state leaders implemented. The International Olympic Committee recently updated its guidelines to say athletes should generally be able to play on teams matching their gender identity, and the NCAA recently called for a sport-by-sport method of determining eligibility.

Opponents of the legislation say it’s a selective attack. Many cisgender women also have high testosterone levels, but they aren’t targeted. The law also fails to recognize that many transgender girls take hormone medications that affect their testosterone levels.

This legislation will ostracize transgender children and athletes, opponents said Thursday.

“Gov. Noem and South Dakota legislators need to stop playing games with vulnerable children,” the Human Rights Campaign’s senior counsel, Cathryn Oakley, said in a statement. “Transgender children are children. They deserve the ability to play with their friends. This legislation isn’t solving an actual problem that South Dakota was facing: it is discrimination, plain and simple. Shame on Governor Noem.”

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