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Bill Banning Transgender Treatment Advances to SD Senate

The South Dakota State Capitol is bracing for protests today from LGBT groups who oppose a bill restricting treatments for children who considering gender reassignment. (Sharon McCutcheon/Pixabay)
The South Dakota State Capitol is bracing for protests today from LGBT groups who oppose a bill restricting treatments for children who considering gender reassignment. (Sharon McCutcheon/Pixabay)
February 10, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. -- In her annual address last month, Gov. Kristi Noem stressed economic expansion and diversification, and the current spotlight on transgender issues has some worried it could be a black eye for South Dakota. A bill to be heard in the Senate today would criminalize gender-confirmation surgery for minors and punish doctors who prescribe drugs to pause the onset of puberty in children.

David Owen, president and chief lobbyist with the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called the bill draconian, and said it could have economic consequences such as the loss of conventions, tournaments, entertainment and business investment.

"We are more and more seeing the conservatives on a path that diverges from business interests when it comes to some of these social issues," Owen said.

Bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch of Florence, argued the state's role is to protect children. Republican lawmakers in at least eight other states have introduced proposals to punish doctors or other medical professionals who treat teens for gender issues.

Opposition to the bill, including that from South Dakota's medical community, has not swayed lawmakers. The proposed legislation easily passed in the overwhelmingly Republican state House. Nonetheless, in his role as a lobbyist, Owen said national business leaders have told him they believe in inclusiveness and balk at laws targeting a limited number of people.

"Here we are with a group trying to take their vision of what ought to be and ought not be and put that on every citizen of South Dakota," he said. "And I just think they've overreached."

In 2016, South Dakota's Legislature passed a bill, later vetoed by the former governor, that would have limited transgender students' bathroom access.

Two other bills introduced this year already have died. One would have effectively forced school counselors to inform parents if their kids raised the issue of transitioning, while another prevented the state from intervening if a parent refused to approve treatment for their transgender child.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD