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House lawmaker wants 'stronger' bill to restrict transgender sports participation

Jenifer Jones

Some House lawmakers want to make changes to the governor’s bill that supporters say protects women and girls who play sports.

The bill ultimately prevents transgender girls from playing girls sports.

Governor Kristi Noem describes her bill to protect fairness in female sports as the "strongest law in the nation."

Rhonda Milstead
State of South Dakota
Rhonda Milstead

But it’s not strong enough for some House lawmakers.

Representative Rhonda Milstead brought a similar bill last year that reached the governor’s desk, but ultimately got vetoed. She also has her own bill this year.

The Hartford Republican says she wishes the governor’s office would let the Legislature bring the bills.

“But, being that we’re on this path, I do have one amendment to make to their bill that I hope they will agree to and then we can move forward,” Milstead says. “I think we have the same intent. We want girls to be protected, but we want to have an enforcement mechanism in place and consequences to make sure they happen. We want to make sure it’s about action and not words.”

Milstead says she wants to make the governor's bill “stronger,” but did not discuss specifics about what the amendment would do.

There are several differences between Milstead’s House bill and Noem’s Senate bill. The governor’s bill requires the state to provide legal representation and cover any attorney’s fees incurred by schools and universities. Milstead’s bill does not.

Milstead’s bill allows for monetary damages. The governor’s bill allows girl athletes to get reinstated on a team if their spot is taken by a transgender girl.

Ian Fury is a spokesperson for the governor’s office. He says the difference comes down to "right to play, not right to pay.”

“It’s important for girls to have the opportunity to gain restitution if they are unfairly deprived of their opportunity to play in sports so that they can have that opportunity, achievement, to learn the thrill of victory,” Fury says. “But the point of litigation is that restitution. It’s not so that families can get rich in the process.”

Neither the governor’s bill—which has already passed the Senate—nor Representative Milstead’s House bill are scheduled for a hearing yet in any House committee.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.