The South Dakota Senate approved a bill that would force the state’s transgender students to use public school facilities designated for physical gender, even if doing so contradicts how they identify themselves.
South Dakota will be the first state to have such a law on the books if approved by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
On Feb. 16, the state Senate passed the so-called transgender bathroom bill by a vote of 20 to 15, Keloland reports. If signed into law by Daugaard, the legislation would require that transgender teenagers use public school bathrooms and locker rooms based on their biological bodies.
If transgender students want to use a private facility, they would have to file a request with their school district, according to the Argus Leader.
Family Heritage Alliance Action, a conservative Christian group, celebrated the vote.
“This is such the right thing to do to protect all of our students,” FHAA spokesman Dale Bartscher told the Argus Leader. “It’s a privacy bill, it’s a modesty bill, it’s sensible South Dakota common sense.”
Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, slammed the vote, stating that the bill targets vulnerable teenagers.
“History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement, according to CBS News.
The bill was created by Republican State Rep. Fred Deutsch, who has stated that his intention is to preserve privacy. The bill is also a defiant rebuke of the federal government’s Title IX regulation demanding that transgender students be accommodated.
During the Senate debate over the legislation, Democratic State Sen. Troy Heinert criticized the precedent that the bill would set.
“When does the discrimination stop?” Heinert said, according to the Argus Leader.
“We’re going to tread down a very serious path,” he added.
Republican State Sen. David Omdahl candidly responded to a critic of the bill at an event.
“I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are,” Omdahl said, according to CBS News. “I’m telling you right now, it’s about protecting the kids, and I don’t even understand where our society is these days.”
The fate of the bill rests on Daugaard, who has reportedly never met a transgender person.
The Center for Equality sent the governor a letter inviting him to meet transgender youth in the state in order "to learn more about the transgender community and to meet a few transgender Dakotans," Keloland reports.
The group’s president, Thomas Christiansen, is concerned about a potential increase in bullying if the bill passes.
“It’s going to affect suicide statistics,” Christiansen told Keloland. “People are going to lose their lives over these bills that are coming out.”