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Transgender sports bill could be harmful to South Dakota economy

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 5:58 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The bill that would prohibit transgender student-athletes from playing on the team matching their gender identity is awaiting a signature from Governor Kristi Noem -- who has indicated her intention to sign it.

Concerns are being raised by businesses in the state that signing H.B. 1217 could have harmful effects on the state’s economy.

South Dakota would be the second state in the nation to pass a law that would prohibit transgender athletes from participating on teams aligned with their gender identity. Nearly 550 student-athletes signed a letter demanding that the NCAA not hold events in states that are passing these laws.

Sadie Young was at a protest in Pierre Thursday to speak out against the legislation. She’d like to tell the Governor that signing this bill in South Dakota seems pointless.

“I just want to tell her that the bill is clearly an attack on the trans community,” Young said. “There’s not a whole lot of evidence that there’s a significant on-field advantage for trans kids, either in college or in high school, and there aren’t a whole lot of trans kids participating in sports in South Dakota. The entire endeavor is discriminatory.”

Similar bills across the nation, including Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, and North Carolina’s bathroom bill in 2016, sparked nationwide outrage and boycotts by sports leagues as well as businesses.

President and CEO of Visit Rapid City, Julie Schmitz-Jensen fears that a similar backlash could be seen in South Dakota.

“When the word gets out nationally that our state passed this law if it does get passed, it’s going to impact any group that looks at our state and looks at full equality when it comes to hosting a convention or a sporting event,” Schmitz-Jensen said.

Visit Rapid City is a part of the South Dakota Convention and Visitors Bureaus which wrote a letter to Noem discouraging her from signing the bill.

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