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South Dakota Governor Vetoes Discriminatory Transgender Bathroom Bill

It would have required public school students to use bathrooms according to their sex assignment at birth.

Photo via Flickr user Jeffrey Beall

Good news for the transgender community: Yesterday Dennis Daugaard, the Republican governor of South Dakota, vetoed a discriminatory bill that would have forced public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their sex assignment at birth.

The controversial bill, HB 1008, was passed last week by the Republican-controlled state legislature, drawing scrutiny and sparking a backlash from LGBT activists all over the country. If passed, the bill would have been the first of its kind, denying transgender individuals the essential right to access a restroom in accordance with their gender identities.

Daugaard cited the lack of “any pressing issue” driving the bill in his veto message and delegated the responsibility of making such policies to local school districts.

“This bill … removes the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students and replaces that flexibility with a state mandate,” he wrote.

He added that the bill would cause contention between local and state authorities.

“If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them. Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.”

Time reports that Daugaard made his decision after hearing the testimony of three transgender individuals—to the governor’s knowledge, his first direct interaction with trans people. The ACLU of South Dakota, the Human Rights Campaign, and local students and adults also urged Daugaard to reject the bill.

The proposed legislation didn’t just jeopardize transgender youth in South Dakota; it posed a national risk for trans individuals across the United States. Had it been passed, HB 1008 would have set a precedent for such anti-transgender measures, opening the way for other states pursuing similar legislation. So consider this veto a victory. Now there’s a precedent for state governors to uphold the right of transgender students to go to the restroom in peace.

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