Gov. Noem proposes ‘Defend Title IX Now’ after offering revisions for transgender sports bill

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks at a press conference discussing transgender athletes in women's sports...
Gov. Kristi Noem speaks at a press conference discussing transgender athletes in women's sports on March 22 in Sioux Falls.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 12:29 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KOTA) - To defend from blowback following her decision to not sign House Bill 1217, Gov. Kristi Noem is creating a new initiative to defend “fairness in women’s sports.”

“Defend Title IX Now” is a coalition to defend the federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities, Noem announced in Sioux Falls on Monday. The group’s website states “only girls should play girls’ sports.” The governor described the coalition as a sort of broader effort to take on the issue at a national level.

“Once we have enough states on board, a coalition big enough where the NCAA cannot possibly punish us all, then we can guarantee fairness at the collegiate level,” Noem said.

Noem grounds the argument in Title IX, the civil law to fight against discrimination and says “it’s fundamentally unfair” for men who identify as women to compete in women’s sports.

On Monday, Noem said even though she supports HB 1217, she does not believe it will hold up in court. Noem likened it to a “participation trophy,” saying that knowingly signing a bill that will be struck down would “hurt” South Dakota.

One key change in Noem’s proposal is excluding college athletics from the bill. Noem said she spoke with legal scholars who said South Dakota’s chances of winning a lawsuit against the NCAA are “very low,” noting that it is a private organization.

Throughout the briefing, Noem repeatedly characterized the bill as part of an effort to protect fairness in women’s sports. Several supporters spoke during the briefing echoing these sentiments, saying it would be unfair for women to compete against transgender women who are physically stronger.

One critique cited by opponents of the bill throughout the process is the small number of student-athletes it would actually impact. South Dakota High School Activities Association Director Dan Swartos spoke against the bill, saying there are currently no transgender athletes competing in girls’ sports at the K-12 level in the state. However, Noem said Monday that this is indeed an important issue because “a lot of people are talking about it and concerned about it,’ and that “we could, in the near future, have a situation where we are dealing with it on a daily basis in South Dakota.”

Noem also took issue with the characterization of the law as a “transgender bill,” saying putting it in that context would be “completely inaccurate.” However, when a reporter noted that the only people this would affect are transgender athletes, Noem deferred to Walker, who then specifically voiced concern about transgender athletes. He then said if he identified as a woman, he believes he could compete in the Olympics.

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