‘Vague and overly broad’: GOP South Dakota Gov. Noem rejects bill restricting transgender athletes

Among the most obvious fronts in America’s intensifying culture wars is a concerted effort among progressives to allow transgender females to compete against biologically female athletes in school sports.

Many conservatives are opposed to such proposals, however, citing issues like the clear physiological advantages that biologically male athletes could have over females. For her part, though, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is pushing back against a state bill that would prohibit a provision for transgender athletes.

“Significant unintended consequences”

Though she initially voiced support for the GOP-led legislature’s proposal, the governor subsequently sent the bill back to lawmakers along with some suggested changes.

Noem apparently is still on board with the underlying premise of the legislation but had concerns about the potential for “significant unintended consequences” that would be possible due to the bill’s “vague and overly broad language.”

Republican legislators sold H.B. 1217 as an act to promote fairness in women’s sports, decreeing that participation in school-level athletic teams would be separated based on an individual’s biological sex at birth.

The measure would also require written statements from all student-athletes regarding their age, sex, and performance-enhancing drug use, with punishments and civil liability imposed for those who issue false statements as well as institutions that allow transgender individuals to compete with athletes of the opposite biological sex.

When Noem first received the bill on March 10, she publicly stated how “excited” she was to sign it into law.

“Unworkable administrative burden”

After a period of consideration and consultation with legal experts, however, the governor decided that she could no longer support the legislation as it was written.

In a press release on Friday, Noem announced that she had returned the bill with her suggestions to change its form and style.

“Unfortunately, as I have studied this legislation and conferred with legal experts over the past several days, I have become concerned that this bill’s vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences,” she said.

In particular, she expressed opposition to provisions that, in her view, would open schools and individuals up to potential civil liabilities not intended by the legislation as well as place an “unworkable administrative burden” on schools.

With a few specific edits, the governor said she could once again fully back the bill, writing: “I support this legislation and hope that House Bill 1217, with the changes I am proposing, becomes law. I respectfully request that you concur with my recommendations as to STYLE and FORM.”

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