A controversial bill landed on the South Dakota governor’s desk yesterday that would make it illegal for transgender students to use gender-segregated facilities that match the gender they identify with. If passed, the bill would be the first of its type in the country.
While Republican activists and politicians have couched the debate in terms of personal privacy and security, the bill’s wording makes its meaning abundantly clear: “Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex.” Lest you think there is room for interpretation, the bill goes on to define biological sex as the physical condition of being a male or female as identified at birth.
The passage of the so-called “bathroom bill” was celebrated as a success by the state’s conservatives, but LGBT activists and other sympathetic human beings are less thrilled. The Human Rights Campaign has called the bill a “shameful attack against transgender kids.”
The measure does promise to provide “reasonable accommodations,” such as a single-occupancy restroom, to any students who don’t want to use the provided facilities.
Knowing better than to appeal to politicians’ basic human decency, activists are instead trying to sway opinion against the bill by pointing out that it could potentially cost the state millions in federal funding and litigation fees.
There is still some hope that the law could be defeated — though because that hope lies entirely with Dennis Daugaard, the state’s Republican governor, no one is exactly holding their breath.
To Daugaard’s credit, he has said he will consider the bill seriously before deciding whether to sign it or not. He intends to research the issue and listen to recorded testimony. Perhaps less to his credit, Daugaard — who has already said the bill sounds like a good idea — plans to conduct this rigorous research without actually speaking to a member of the transgender community. Daugaard is worried that talking to someone the law affects might make him less objective (he actually said this). The governor also reassured his constituents that he’s never met a transgender person, as far as he knows.