PIERRE – After a record year for anti-trans legislation in 2021, state lawmakers in at least seven states have introduced bills that seek to limit the rights of trans and nonbinary people during the first week of the new year. Advocates are particularly worried about a South Dakota proposal that relies on private citizens to sue those who break the law, similar to Texas’ controversial abortion ban.
NBC News reports that in those seven states – Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota – Republican lawmakers have introduced at least nine anti-trans measures. Most of the proposals seek to either bar trans kids from playing school sports or limit their access to gender-affirming care.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re getting ready to watch a race to the bottom among legislators who are in a competition to see who can do the most harm to trans kids,” Gillian Branstetter, a longtime trans advocate and the media manager for the National Women’s Law Center, told the network. “It is a hostile and dangerous trend that I’m sure we’ll see continue through the year.”
Republican state Rep. Rhonda Milstead, who introduced South Dakota’s trans sports ban this week, told NBC News in an email that “it is unfortunate that we see this as removing the rights of any people. If competitive sports are made to be fair, there is a place for everyone to compete according to the biology they were born with.”
However, major sports organizations, like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow trans and nonbinary people to compete on teams that align with their gender identity under certain circumstances. In fact, the NCAA Board of Governors said they “firmly and unequivocally” supported trans student-athletes competing in college sports last year.
Republican state Rep. Fred Deutsch, who introduced the bill banning trans kids from using locker rooms and restrooms, defended his bill by telling outlet: “All across the country, including in South Dakota, laws and policies are being changed to redefine sex in a manner that denies the material reality of sex. This bill is designed to ensure that, at least in South Dakota, we maintain a definition of sex that actually reflects reality.”
Similar to Texas’ six-week abortion ban, Deutsch’s proposal would also allow students to sue their school district if they encounter a trans classmate in one of those gendered areas – a development that is especially concerning to advocates.
Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) LGBT & HIV Project, explained on Twitter: “Both of South Dakota’s bills seemingly have SB8-style enforcement where main penalty is a lawsuit by ‘aggrieved’ students who suffer the ‘injury’ of encountering a trans person in a single-sex space or activity.”
He added to NBC News: “One concern that people have moving forward is, ‘How are lawmakers going to try and avoid accountability and judicial review?’ I think one way is to limit government enforcement of their laws and sort of deputize private individuals to act as government officials to essentially be the people enforcing the law through private lawsuits.”