South Dakota may become the first state in the U.S. to approve a law requiring students to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex.
The South Dakota Senate voted 20-15 Tuesday night to pass a bill that would ban transgender bathrooms, which now awaits approval from Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard. This new law would restrict students from using bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities unless it is consistent with their gender at birth.
Daugaard favored the bill initially, but now says he is still doing research before coming to a final decision, South Dakota’s Argus Leader reports. Daugaard claimed to have never met a transgender person and that he intends to keep it that way to remain objective.
The bill‘s author, state Rep. Fred Deutsch, says it is designed to ensure the privacy of both transgender and non-transgender students in South Dakota. He believes that the federal government overstepped its authority when it required schools to provide accommodations for transgender students under Title IX.
Under this new law, transgender students who do not want to use bathrooms assigned by biological sex would have to submit a request to their school district asking for accommodation in other facilities.
The passing of this bill is seen as a success by South Dakota conservatives, who believe it is protecting the innocence of South Dakota students.
“We’re talking about our youths commingling in bathrooms and locker rooms, biological males and biological females,” said state Sen. Brock Greenfield while advocating for the bill on the Senate floor Tuesday night.
“Do you feel it appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to be exposed to the anatomy of a boy? Or for a boy to be exposed to the anatomy of a girl because of the decisions we make out here?” Greenfield continued.
Greenfield believes that emotions need to be set aside and a uniform policy should be created as the “sensitivities of our state” are on the line.
This bill was also met with positive reactions from a conservative Christian group Family Heritage Alliance Action.
“This is such the right thing to do to protect all of our students,” said Dale Bartscher, the Christian group’s spokesperson. “It’s is a privacy bill, it’s a modesty bill, it’s sensible South Dakota common sense.”
Democratic lawmakers and advocates, on the other hand, are outraged.
“We’re fixing nothing, but we’re creating problems,” said state Sen. Bernie Hunhoff as he argued against the bill Tuesday night.
Hunhoff believes that this ban will cost millions of dollars in lawsuits and cause people to boycott the state of South Dakota, which could have a negative impact on business and tourism.
Legal director of LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign Sarah Warbelow said the bill will be damaging to South Dakota students and called for Gov. Daugaard to meet with transgender students before making a decision.
“He needs to take into account that legislators are saying this will help transgender kids, but the legislation does the exact opposite,” Warbelow told Argus Leader.
The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice are currently in opposition to the bill, claiming school districts who require this bathroom separation are in violation of Title IX.