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Top Noem adviser makes terrorism comparison during transgender sports bill hearing

A House panel is endorsing a bill that prevents transgender girls from playing girls sports. It’s one of the bill’s last steps before reaching the governor’s desk.

Meanwhile, comments on the bill by the governor’s top adviser are sparking criticism.

Mark Miller

The South Dakota High School Activities Association has had a transgender athlete policy in place since 2013. Since then, one transgender girl athlete has played sports in South Dakota.

The bill seeks to stop that. Mark Miller is Gov. Kristi Noem’s chief of staff. He said during a legislative committee hearing that the legislation is preemptive, to stop what's happening in other states from happening in South Dakota.

“By putting it in law we are ensuring that what we’re seeing all over the country does not happen in South Dakota," Miller said. "It’s sort of like terrorism. You want to keep it over there, not let it get to here.”

After the committee hearing, Minority Leader Jaime Smith said Miller’s comments were “awful.”

“It is absolutely dumbfounding that somebody would use that analogy for something," Smith said. "It’s absolutely insensitive to the topic. I believe he was way out of line.”

Committee Republicans ultimately approved the legislation. It now heads to the House floor.

Some Republicans there say the governor’s bill is not strong enough in its enforcement mechanism. Republican Rhonda Milstead said she plans to bring an amendment to the bill, bringing it closer in line with her own legislation. That bill allows people to sue for monetary damages.

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.
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