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Civil Rights Watchdog: SD Becoming Worst State for Transgender People

South Dakota lawmakers are considering several bills that civil rights advocates say unfairly target transgender people. (iStockphoto)
South Dakota lawmakers are considering several bills that civil rights advocates say unfairly target transgender people. (iStockphoto)
February 18, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. - Civil rights advocates say South Dakota is poised to become one of the worst states in the nation for transgender people.

On Wednesday, a Senate committee approved a measure that would prohibit the state from recognizing a transgender person's stated identity.

Advocates for that bill say a person's identity as transgender is a claim, and should not contradict what is on their birth certificate.

Libby Skarin, policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, says this year, the state has seen a large uptick in the number of such bills that target transgender people.

"We're seeing bills about bathrooms, and birth certificates, more bills trying to prevent transgender kids from participating in athletics and activities at the high school level," says Skarin. "There has just been an absolute flood of these bills."

A bill to regulate how transgender students use school bathrooms is currently sitting on Gov. Dennis Daugaard's desk. If he signs it, the state will be the first in the nation to pass such a law.

As for HB 1209, the one that passed out of committee yesterday, Skarin says it would create a web of bureaucratic problems, and not just for transgender people.

She argues anyone who is trying to make changes to their birth certificate – for instance, a name change – they would have to jump through more legal hoops.

"That's a process that sometimes has to happen through a court, so we're talking about time and access to resources, an ability to hire a lawyer," she says. "And it's just putting barriers in the way of anyone who has had a legal name change, transgender people certainly included."

Skarin believes if some of these bills become law, they could face legal challenges at the federal level.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD