The South Dakota legislature has passed a restrictive law requiring transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their sex at birth, the first of its kind in the nation. CBS News reported that the state Senate passed the bill, HB 1008, by a majority of 20-15 on Tuesday night. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard for his signature, which would make it a law. The governor has previously stated support for the bill, and said that he does not plan to meet a transgender person before making up his mind on the bill, “so as to ensure objectivity,” according to local publication the Argus Leader. The bill, which applies to public school students, defines the students “biological sex” as the sex identified by their chromosomes and “anatomy as identified at birth.” It allows for any student who “asserts that the student’s gender is different from the student’s biological sex” to use a unisex or single-occupancy bathroom with a parent’s written permission. The supposed compromise may violate federal law. According to The National Center For Transgender Equality, Title IX’s coverage of gender equality in public schools covers both a student’s right to use facilities associated with their gender identity, as well as a student’s right to privacy concerning gender status and gender transition. The US Department of Education has previously sided with transgender students asserting rights under Title IX. The transgender community has urged the state to respect the rights and dignity of transgender individuals. In a statement, LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign denounced the vote, saying that history has never looked kindly on those who attack civil rights. Trans ACLU attorney Chase Strangio posted an open letter to the South Dakota legislature before the vote, urging them not to pass the bill and saying that the message of discrimination will harm vulnerable children. "If this bill is signed, I have no doubt that there will be many transgender South Dakotans who will face bullying, harassment, and perhaps even death," he said.
The bill was passed under the persistent transphobic myth that transgender people using a gender-specific restroom are somehow a threat to others, specifically young women, and that the purpose of the bill was to “protect the kids.” The bill’s sensationalist transphobia was on full display in its arguments. “Do you feel it appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to be exposed to the anatomy of a boy? Or for a boy to be exposed to the anatomy of a girl because of the decisions we make out here?" state Senator Brock Greenfield, the bill’s sponsor, was quoted by Argus Leader. Frankly, if walking into a middle school’s restroom means you’re likely to be suddenly confronted with anyone’s genitalia, the school likely has a bigger problem than just where transgender students are peeing.