aroundtheregion

South Dakota
Last week, South Dakota lawmakers sent an anti-transgender bill to Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The bill would block local school districts from enacting transgender-inclusive policies. LGBT community members have called for a boycott of South Dakota over the bill, and LGBT groups are asking for a meeting with Daugaard prior to his signing or vetoing the bill. Support for the well-being of transgender youth has been from inside and outside the state.

JoeMyGod has a run-down of LGBT advocacy group’s responses.

The Argus Leader notes that people have used the state’s tourism hashtag to criticize the bill:

Opponents of the controversial transgender bathroom bill passed by the South Dakota Senate on Tuesday have taken over a hashtag originally coined for a state tourism campaign.

The hashtag #HiFromSD was launched in 2014 by the South Dakota Department of Tourism to encourage people to share travel photos of South Dakota.
Critics of the transgender bathroom legislation began using the hashtag Tuesday to generate conversation about the bill, which would bar transgender students from using bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of the gender with which they identify if they don’t correspond with their biological sex.

The ACLU of South Dakota, which has been a prime organizing force against the bill, said the group understand the wish to boycott the state, the Argus Leader reports:

Heather Smith, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said Thursday that the organization didn’t launch a campaign to take over a state tourism hashtag, but was supportive of those who used it to learn more about the House Bill 1008. The measure would require transgender students in the state’s public schools to use restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities based on their biological sex or use separate accommodations.
“It was our hope that South Dakota lawmakers would have put a stop to HB 1008 before it garnered this type of national attention,” Smith said in a statement. “However, given the blatant animus we’ve seen from the Capitol this session, we can’t fault the LGBT community and their allies for being hesitant to travel to South Dakota.”

Many of the nation’s largest child welfare organizations sent a letter to Gov. Daugaard and other state governors urging them to reject such bills. The Black Hills Center for Equality has the details:

In the open letter, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association all expressed their grave concerns and objections to the flurry of bills attacking one of our nation’s most vulnerable youth populations.

“All of our nation’s children deserve equal protections and treatment in their classrooms; these anti-transgender bills foster discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities,” the seven organizations state in their letter. They go on to say “[w]e stand in opposition to these shameful bills, and, on behalf of our members and communities, call on governors across the country to reject these harmful measures if they reach their desks…Every student deserves equal access to education, academic success, and a future in which they are empowered to fulfill their true potential, and these laws contravene that fundamental principle, which has long guided our nation’s education policy.”

Protesters gathered at a legislative coffee talk on Saturday to criticize the bill, KDLT reports:

House Bill 1008 has been one of the most controversial pieces of proposed legislation this session. It has prompted criticism from lawmakers, educators, even national civil rights campaigns.

Saturday, ahead of the legislative coffee talk, some of those who are upset with how far the bill has gotten demonstrated their frustration. Sylva Stoel wanted to her voice to be heard.
“I want to put pressure on the lawmakers to make them reconsider their actions,” she said.
The so-called ‘transgender bathroom bill’ is one of four bills proposed by the South Dakota legislature, that opponents say directly harm transgender students. This prompted Lincoln High School senior, Hattie Seten to organize Saturday’s #holdthemaccountable protest.
“We believe that discriminating against people in our schools is not right, and we really want to put an end to that,” said Setten.

Democrats and even a Republican spoke out against the bill this week as it passed at the Capitol. The Dakota Free Press has put together a compilation of those statements. Senator Craig Tieszen, a Republican from Rapid City, told his colleagues:

My experience and good sense tell me to stay seated. This is an issue that most people have made their mind up and they don’t need or want to listen, they want to move on. But my conscience requires me to stand up, because despite the good intentions, I think, of the sponsors, this bill is causing pain to a significant minority in our community.

The governor will meet with transgender youth over the bill, the Argus Leader reports:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard will meet with transgender students before deciding whether to sign a bill that would bar them from using public school bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of the gender with which they identify.
After a mishap Wednesday morning in which the governor’s office called back an LGBT support and advocacy group that had invited him to meet saying he wouldn’t be able to meet them, Daugaard’s spokeswoman Kelsey Pritchard said he’ll meet the group as early as Thursday.
Pritchard said the office received the request before the Senate advanced the measure to the governor Tuesday and a staff member issued the response in error Wednesday morning.
Pritchard said Daugaard will also meet with the bill’s sponsors to hear their input.
Last week, the Republican governor said he hadn’t knowingly met a transgender person and didn’t think he needed to do so before taking up the bill.

Gov. Daugaard had previously said that he’d never met a transgender person, but as Kendra Heathscott pointed out in the Argus Leader, he has:

“I have many fond memories of you sitting at my table and talking with the other students and me during lunch. I loved hearing the stories that you would share with us,” she shared. “Do you remember that story you used to tell us about the mountain lions? Or do you maybe remember the Christmas show we used to put on at Methodist Church?”

“I am urging you not to pass HB 1008. This bill, as I am sure you are already aware, is an attack on transgender students in the Rushmore State,” she concluded. “I know you have always had the children at heart, and I hope you still have that same huge heart I was aware of when I was 10.”

The ACLU posted a letter from ACLU attorney Chase Strangio to South Dakota lawmakers noting that the bill is dangerous to transgender youth:

I am now 33 years old, and I have an incredible job and a loving family. I am proud of who I am and all that I have been able to accomplish. But if I were a student in South Dakota right now, chances are I would not survive into adulthood.

Spencer O’Hara, president of Augustana Democrats and vice president of College Democrats of South Dakota, penned a piece slammed the bill’s authors in a column at the Argus Leader:

I write this with a heavy heart, having been deeply troubled about your actions and their consequences on my LGBT brothers and sisters. South Dakota is now receiving national attention for HB 1008 as the first state in the country to pass an anti-transgender bathroom bill. I have tried to reconcile your decision to advance HB 1008 in my mind. I have tried to rise above and not reciprocate the same contempt you have for anyone who isn’t like you. I’m having a really hard time with that. I see a lot of humans in Pierre, but no humanity.
Most of you like to ponder why young people across the state are leaving. I’ll let you in on a little secret: We are sick and tired. We are sick and tired of you sacrificing our future, boasting about the merits of fiscal responsibility and making deep cuts to education later found to be unnecessary. We are sick and tired of politicians dragging their feet about helping the most vulnerable in our state who cannot afford health care, despite the fact that the federal government has agreed to cover 90 percent of costs. We are sick of you passing laws limiting reproductive health care and sex education in schools, then giving businesses the right to brand unwed mothers with a scarlet letter.

Michelangelo Signorile gives some context to what’s happening in South Dakota and other states in How a “Ferocious Backlash to LGBT Equality Is in Full Force While Leaders Have No Strategy“:

A backlash against LGBT equality is in full swing, eight months after marriage equality came to the entire nation, and it’s not just happening in very conservative places. In Houston, a city which had a lesbian mayor and prided itself on inclusiveness, a ballot measure rescinded the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance with an overwhelming majority last November, as opponents targeted transgender people with a campaign of hate and “bathroom panic” via television ads.
LGBT leaders not only didn’t have a plan then, they’ve still not figured out how to deal with bathroom panic and the right’s age-old tactic of exploiting people’s fears about their children with regard to the presence of gay or transgender people.

Wisconsin
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is getting support in Wisconsin from anti-LGBT leaders, the Associated Press reports:

Those backing Cruz have been supportive of some of the most conservative proposals put forward in Wisconsin in recent years.
Kremer is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit transgender school students from using the bathroom of the sex they identify with, and instead force them to use facilities consistent with their sex at birth. Jacque sponsored a bill to ban research on university campuses using fetal tissue obtained from abortion.

The Eau Claire school district is considering transgender inclusive policies, WEAU reports:

Eau Claire schools could be a trailblazer in the state when it comes to accommodating and protecting transgender students.
The Eau Claire Area School Board is discussing amending its equal education policy to designate transgender students as a protected class.
Board member Joe Luginbill introduced the idea to amend the policy in order to accommodate transgender students.
“We’ve never really addressed this as a school district and certainly the time is now,” said Luginbill.

A group of Republicans penned an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel urging lawmakers to reject anti-transgender legislation:

As Wisconsin Republicans, we adhere to certain values and principles to ensure that everyone can enjoy the best possible quality of life. Most of us try to live by what President George W. Bush called compassionate conservatism. That means we stay true to our values of limited government, parental rights and fiscal responsibility, while at the same time treating our neighbors the way we want to be treated.
Having worked for both President George W. Bush, as well as former Wisconsin Gov. and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, I have learned a great deal of what being a compassionate conservative means. Both of these leaders supported my efforts to ensure the health and safety of transgender individuals across the country and the world.
Unfortunately, the notion of being conservative, let alone a compassionate conservative, has been thrown out the window with the introduction of Assembly Bill 469. The proposed legislation, which is being considered by the Assembly Committee on Education, will prohibit local school districts from developing policies to allow transgender students to use the restrooms where they are the safest.
Parents across the state should be concerned with this bill regardless of their child’s gender identity. Not only does this bill create an unfunded, one-size-fits-all mandate from the state government, but it will put all of our children at risk of being harassed before they use the restroom.

The anti-transgender bill appears to be dead for 2016 in Wisconsin, Freedom for All Americans said in a statement:

Wisconsin lawmakers quietly adjourned the legislative session yesterday without moving forward on a bill that would have banned transgender children from using facilities at school that match the gender they live everyday.
Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, released the following statement:
“Wisconsin lawmakers did the right thing by not moving forward on a bill that would have increased the tremendous harassment and threat of harm that transgender children face in their everyday lives. No state in the nation has ever passed a bill that singles out transgender students and prohibits them from using the correct facilities. Transgender children, like all children, should be focused on their education while at school. As similar bills percolate in other parts of the country, Wisconsin is sending an important message that anti-transgender bills are invasive, discriminatory, and wrong.”

Iowa
Iowa lawmakers are trying to add gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law, WQAD reports:

A Senate panel has advanced a bill that would make it a hate crime in Iowa to commit an offense against a person because that person identifies as transgender.
Three lawmakers from the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed unanimously Tuesday, February 16, 2016, to advance the bill. It must pass out of the full committee by Friday to meet a legislative deadline and stay alive this session.
The bill would make it a hate crime if an offense is committed against a person or their property because of the person’s gender identity or gender expression. Current language in Iowa code includes multiple characteristics, including sexual orientation.

The Column is a community-supported non-profit news, arts, and media organization. We depend on community support to continue the work of solid LGBT-centric journalism. If you like this article, consider visiting Give MN to make a contribution today.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here