Today, by a vote of 58 to 10, the South Dakota House of Representatives alarmingly passed discriminatory legislation targeting transgender students. Seeking to prevent transgender students in public schools from using facilities consistent with their gender identity, HB 1008 would put state law in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and force public schools to pay the costs of the resulting legal challenges. HRC has repeatedly called on the state’s lawmakers to stop the discriminatory legislation and slammed today’s vote as a vile and shameful attack on transgender students.
“The South Dakota House of Representatives’ vote in favor of discrimination against transgender students is alarming and appalling,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Today’s shameful vote puts the Mount Rushmore State on the verge of being the first state in the nation to pass legislation that is nothing more than a vile attack on students who are already vulnerable to high rates of discrimination and harassment. Fair-minded South Dakotans absolutely must stand up now and demand their lawmakers in the Senate stop this hateful legislation from moving any further.”
HB 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law. It would also tie the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents.
In April of 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance informing public schools that Title IX protects students against discrimination based on gender identity. The U.S. Department of Justice has unequivocally stated that, “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his [or her] gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”
The legislation would only exacerbate the discrimination and harassment that transgender students already face. Based on findings from HRC’s groundbreaking survey of over 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, the HRC Foundation, in partnership with Gender Spectrum, released a report in 2014 on gender-expansive youth – or young respondents who identified as transgender or chose “other.” Findings revealed the heartbreaking reality that gender-expansive youth take the brunt of exclusion and verbal harassment both inside and outside of school compared to their peers. For example, 40 percent of gender-expansive youth reported being excluded “frequently or often” by their peers. Nearly the same number of gender-expansive youth reported “frequently or often” being verbally harassed and called names at school, and 42 percent reported being called anti-gay slurs.
The outrageous legislation is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country, including at least three anti-LGBT bills in South Dakota alone. To date, HRC is tracking nearly 150 anti-LGBT bills in 27 states. These range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use facilities consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.
Working to stop such reckless and discriminatory legislation, HRC is proud to be fighting alongside local advocates at the ACLU of South Dakota to ensure LGBT residents and visitors across the Mount Rushmore State are treated with dignity and respect.