South Dakota Legislates Discrimination, Passes Shameful Transgender Bathroom Panic Bill
Pierre, S.D. – Today the South Dakota Senate voted to pass HB 1008, a bill that would single out and stigmatize South Dakota transgender students and force them to choose between isolated accommodations or those that do not correspond to their gender identity. The bill now heads to Governor Daugaard for veto consideration.
"Today South Dakota Senators voted to pass a bill that targets vulnerable transgender students for discrimination and could cost the state millions of dollars in federal education funding," said Heather Smith, Executive Director, ACLU of South Dakota Lawmakers heard from South Dakota parents, teachers, students, school counselors, clergy, and mental health professionals who wrote emails, and traveled to Pierre from all corners of the state to testify and demonstrate the ways in which this bill does real harm to transgender students. The only people to testify in support of this harmful, discriminatory bill were lobbyists—not one South Dakota citizen testified to the necessity of this bill. And that's because it's not necessary and we don't need discrimination codified. South Dakota stands to lose.
According to the Smith, the legislation begs the question; "do our state politicians truly represent the people of South Dakota, or do they represent outsider lobbyists and interest groups?"
"Governor Daugaard should listen to his actual constituents and veto this bill and send a strong message that discrimination isn't a South Dakota value and there's simply no place for it in our schools, community, and state," Smith added
"With serious and complex issues like teacher pay and healthcare needing to be addressed this year, it is disturbing that this session so far has launched one of the worst attacks on vulnerable transgender children in the entire country," said Libby Skarin, Policy Director, ACLU of South Dakota. Bill after bill seems fixated on where kids can go to the bathroom, how they can identify themselves, and on what sports teams they can play. It is this type of hostility toward young trans people from adult leaders that contributes to the devastating bullying against and high rates of depression and even suicide among transgender young people."
"My son struggled with his identity until he was 18 years old," Rebecca Dodds, parent of a transgender teenager. I'm a protective parent, and I would have done anything to make his time in school bearable, but the truth is that he felt vulnerable and afraid. I'm asking South Dakota lawmakers to think of my son, who spent so much of his time at school living in fear. If he had been allowed to be himself in a supportive and accepting environment, maybe he wouldn't have been plagued by those feelings of fear and exclusion. Maybe the suicidal thoughts would not have troubled him so much. Forcing schools to adhere to a policy that singles out transgender children like my son makes them more likely to experience harassment and violence in school."
"As pastors, we are often the people who attempt to pick up the pieces when bullying, discrimination, shame and isolation beat a transgender kid down," said Jean Morrow, Pastor at Spirit of Peace United Church of Christ."Sometimes we are called to visit them in the hospital after they have been beaten up or after they have attempted suicide. And then, sometimes, we are the ones who are called to bury them, because they have either been murdered or have completed suicide. The same babies we baptized with great hope, we bury because of horrendous discrimination – discrimination that this bill creates and supports. I've heard from South Dakota lawmakers who support this bill. They say that they want to protect our children, but transgender children and youth are our children. Who protects them from discrimination?"
"People go to the bathroom. It's one of the most natural things a person can do," said Thomas Lewis, a transgender high school student. "No student should be fearful or anxious about which bathroom to use simply because of who they are. When I see a bill like HB 1008 that targets transgender people like me, it hurts. It makes me feel ashamed to call South Dakota my home. And it makes me feel different, as if I am not human. This bill would single out transgender students like me by forcing me to choose between using a different bathroom from the rest of my peers and using a bathroom that doesn't correspond with my gender identity. This is only going to further bullying, harassment and discrimination. It opens the door to ridicule and public insult by our peers when really, lawmakers should be focusing on passing legislation where every student can be free to be open about who they are in an accepting environment."
"When I think about House Bill 1008 the feelings I had in high school come back to me," said Terri Bruce, a transgender South Dakotan. "I feel the pain the transgender kids in South Dakota will feel when they are not allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. I feel the pain they will feel when they are segregated from their peers because some adults are uncomfortable with them. There will be intense emotional pain. There will be tears. There will be missed school days. There will be suicide attempts. And there will come a day when one of those attempts is successful. I don't think this bill is worth the life of even one child."