South Dakota could become first state to restrict transgender teens’ bathroom use

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South Dakota could soon become the first state to restrict public school restrooms or locker rooms to students of the same biological sex, a potential move that has been decried by transgender rights advocates.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has until Tuesday to decide whether to sign HB 1008, a measure that came to his desk last week. If Daugaard does nothing, the bill becomes law by default.

The governor is a Republican, as are most members of South Dakota’s House of Representatives and Senate who voted to approve the bill. The legislation cruised through the House in January in a 58-10 vote, then passed the Senate by a 20-15 vote in mid-February.

Last Thursday, two days after he received the legislation, Daugaard gave no indication which way he was leaning.

“I’ll get it done … by Tuesday,” the governor told reporters then. “… I certainly want to do it as quickly as possible, but it’s more important to do it well.”

Similar bills proposed in other states

The bill’s text does not use the word “transgender,” the term for people who don’t identify as the gender they’re born as, and who often takes steps to change their gender. Yet that group is the one that will be most affected, as evidenced by the bill’s defining “biological sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth.”

If it becomes law, that doesn’t mean someone who identifies as a girl, but was born a boy, will necessarily have to go to a boys’ restroom. Rather, it calls for them to be given “reasonable accommodation” — specifically, the use of a “single-occupancy restroom, unisex restroom or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room.”

It also dictates that a school district face no “undue hardship” under any new requirement, like being forced to build (and pay for) separate restrooms for transgender students. And private schools would be exempt from the “reasonable accommodation” clause.

Similar bills have been proposed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. But South Dakota is the closest to having actual legislation passed.

Strong feelings on both sides of debate

Transgender students and their families met last week with Daugaard to press their case.

“It singles out transgender individuals and forces them to use something that they’re not comfortable using,” Nathan Leonard, a transgender teen and high school freshman from Watertown, told CNN last month.

Yet those on the other side of the debate say the measure is important to ensure all students’ privacy.

“The primary purpose of the bill is to protect the physical privacy of students from having to expose themselves, or be exposed to others, when in a state of undress or nakedness while at school or school functions,” said State Rep. Fred Deutsch, who authored the bill.

One Sioux Falls father, who did not want to be named, said he supports the measure in part because of his concerns about the bullying of transgender students. He also does not want his own son to have to use the same bathroom as them, either.

“I don’t think I’d want my 16-year-old boy in the bathroom with a transgender student if that student had a radically different look, like someone who changed from a girl to a boy and might have a beard now,” the father said.

CNN’s Bill Kirkos and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.


  • Opinion8d

    I hope he has the courage to pass it. Why the rest of the world needs to ‘accept’ this invasion of privacy for a mentally ill 1% of the population. However, if you listen to the Media, you would think half the word is LGQTB

    • Catherine Rose McCormack

      At no point is allowing a Transgender Person to use the bathroom that corresponds to their Gender Identity a “Invasion of Privacy”. Also both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association state that Transgender People are NOT mentally ill and that they are who they say they are.

      This bill is really dumb because it also discriminates against people with Androgen insensitivity syndrome or Estrogen insensitivity syndrome. These two conditions cause someone to have XY Chromosomes but have a Female Anatomy or XX Chromosomes but a Male Anatomy. Also there is XXY Chromosomes called Klinefelter syndrome where a person has some traits of both Male and Female.

      This bill is completely based on opinions rather than facts. If the medical community was able to chime in, this bill would never have made it this far. People say this bill is about Privacy, I think it is about Ignorance and the refusal to adapt to the changing world. Transgender People have existed for thousands of years. Some religions actually praise Transgender People as the “Connection between the Spirit World and our World”.

      • Opinion8d

        So you would prefer a 12 year old girl having to use a restroom/shower with a full grown male -beard or no beard, because he identifies as a woman? This we are suppose to just accept? We are taking an issue that impacts so few and asking the majority of people to ‘understand’ or ‘be sensitive’ because how that person feels, without THAT person understanding how the rest of us feel. The 12 year old girl should be made to feel uncomfortable (and the countless others) so this freak doesn’t have to use his own bathroom???? Like she’s some kind of bully or something -oh wait, this is where you will say people just need understanding….. It’s a mental illness and having people ‘identify’ however they feel, is not ok -especially with adolescents.

        The whole medical issue you raise is even a smaller percentage of people. Most of this is just mentally ill people (either perverts or truly ill -aka Bruce Jenner) who are expecting/forcing the rest of the people to accept their choices. Society has standards!

      • liberalssuck

        For Catty Rose-
        Liberals have shown time and time again that their political agenda is infinitely more important than the lives of the american people(example Kate Steinle-sanctuary cities).Now their political agenda is also more important than the lives of our daughters nieces,wives,sisters,aunts,mothers.They want to keep construing that by being concerned for the safety of our female relatives that we are somehow bigoted against transgenders.Anything to deflect from the issue at hand huh?
        I have said it before,let me clarify one last time for you liberal morons-sexual predators will use ANY advantage given them to gain access to their victims.You just gave them carte blanche access to our daughters nieces,wives,sisters,aunts,mothers.Proud of yourselves ? How about this,you want to identify as a woman,then you undergo voluntary genital removal.After all a woman doesn’t need or want pesky male genitals hanging around do they?
        And then, and ONLY then, MAYBE we will talk about you using the same bathroom as little girls.
        It’s time to start talking about the democrats war on women,they seem to like that topic so much…….

    • Jill Davidson

      Actually, if this bill becomes law the grown man with beard will have to use the restroom/shower with the 12 year old girl if they are biologically male. There are a lot of trans men with full beards.

  • ablewitness

    Those who are not yet legally adults, who are being supervised by a school system, and have psychological issues in the realm of gender identity, should be allowed to use facilities designed for one person. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association went political long ago — they are no longer unbiased professional organizations.

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