Republican Governor Issues Executive Orders to Save Women’s Sports After Vetoing Bill

South Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislature sent a bill to their Republican governor’s desk last month that would have barred biological males at the K-12 and college levels from competing against women and girls in sports. Gov. Kristi Noem expressed excitement over the bill and looked forward to signing it.

Two weeks later, she changed her mind. Why?

Gov. Kristi Noem said the bill’s “vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences.” She returned the bill to the legislature and suggested style and form changes.

“For example,” she wrote on Twitter,  “Section 2 of House Bill 1217 requires a student athlete to verify, each year, that the student ‘is not taking and has not taken, during the preceding twelve months, any performance enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids.’ Presumably, this requirement was included to address a student taking these drugs as a part of a gender transition, but House Bill 1217 is not limited in this way. Rather, if a male student athlete failed to make the football team, and later learned that another student on the team was taking steroids without disclosing it, the student who didn’t make the team would be entitled to sue both the school and the steroid-user for damages.”

Gov. Noem said the bill would create an administrative burden by asking student athletes to fill out forms specifying their sex at birth and indicating use of performance-enhancing drugs. You can read additional objections and others’ responses on this Twitter thread.

The governor was also concerned that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) would pull out of sports tournaments in South Dakota.

Conservative and Christian groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Action, Save Women’s Sports, Family Policy Alliance, and Concerned Women for America issued an open letter (PDF) to the governor, urging her to support the bill. In the letter, they reminded the governor about a similar law in Idaho that protected women’s sports, which encouraged other states to begin working on their own bills. They also addressed Gov. Noem’s concerns about backlash from the NCAA.

“You’ve said you want to win, and we do, too. More importantly, South Dakota’s female athletes also want the opportunity to win—no matter at what level of competition. This is why our coalition stands unapologetically behind these girls and women and won’t back down to pressure from the NCAA. The NCAA itself doesn’t require its member schools to allow biological males who identify as female on female teams. But even if it did have such a policy, we’d still rather stand proudly with female athletes than those who stand to profit off of them.” [emphasis added]

After the South Dakota legislature refused to make Gov. Noem’s suggested style and form changes, she signed two executive orders to protect women’s sports — one for K-12 sports and the other for college.

The K-12 order reads: “In South Dakota, only females, based on their biological sex, as reflected by their birth certificate or affidavit provided upon initial enrollment in accordance with SDCL…shall participate in any girls’ or women’s athletic event sanctioned by a public school, a school district,  or an association meeting the requirements of SDCL…The South Dakota Department of Education shall establish a policy consistent with this Executive Order and distribute the policy to all public school districts in this State.”

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons) – Some rights reserved

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