PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota has become the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring that public school students use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their birth gender.
On Tuesday, the state Senate voted 20-15 in approval of H.B. 1008, just weeks after the House advanced the bill 58-10.
“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,” the bill, authored by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, reads.
“In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex,” it adds.
The bill notes that if a student identifies as the opposite sex, and attestation is provided in writing by the student’s parent, an accommodation must be made, such as a “single-occupancy restroom, a unisex restroom, or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”
Lawmakers said that the bill was necessary in order to protect the privacy of other students and has nothing to do with ill will against transgendered persons.
“We’re talking about our youths commingling in bathrooms and locker rooms, biological males and biological females,” said Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark. “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?”
“I know it stimulates lots of passion. There’s nothing I can do about that,” also remarked Deutsch. “If you have boy anatomy, you use boy facilities. If you have girl anatomy, you use girls’ facilities. And if you’re a transgender student, schools make local decisions to provide you the best reasonable accommodations that they can come up with.”
But transgender advocacy groups have decried the bill, stating that it is “discriminatory” and “harmful.”
“The Republican leadership of South Dakota’s legislature has disgracefully failed to fulfill its most fundamental obligation — to protect the state’s young people from harm,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement. “History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure.”
“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,” also remarked Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota.
The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who has stated that he wishes to take some time further considering the measure before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation.