Politics & Policy

Noem to Propose Bill Restricting Participation in Female Sports to Biological Women

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem speaks at the North Carolina GOP convention in Greenville, N.C., June 5, 2021. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem has announced a bill that would restrict participation in female sports to biological women at the collegiate and grade school levels.

“This is about fairness,” Noem said in a statement she shared with Fox News. “Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports.”

The governor is likely initiating the legislation to prove the state’s commitment to preserving integrity in women’s sports after she rejected a similar bill months ago that would bar biological boys from competing on girls’ sports teams. Noem received widespread backlash for that move, which many conservatives perceived as a capitulation to special corporate interests. Claiming to have the state’s economic wellbeing in mind, Noem argued that a veto was necessary to keep South Dakota out of expensive, legal quagmires with organizations such as the NCAA, which would have likely responded to the law with a boycott.

Specifically, collegiate competition would be difficult to navigate with these conferences, Noem had said. In an attempt to improve what she saw as issues in the bill’s original language, Noem submitted a revised version to the state legislature as part of a “style and form” veto, which the chambers failed to override.

Instead of legislation, Noem signed an executive order urging the board of regents to make women’s sports exclusive to women but without the weight of a mandate. This new bill, on the other hand, is framed to limit sports to the corresponding “biological sex” printed on an athlete’s birth certificate and it carries a mandate if enacted.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury suggested to Fox News that the large coalition of Republican-dominated states that has passed similar bills have made it less likely that South Dakota would stand alone in costly litigation battles against the NCAA.

“Given HB 1217’s problematic provisions, there was a higher risk of the entire bill being enjoined if South Dakota were to be sued by the NCAA. If that had happened, no girls in South Dakota would have been protected (at K-12 or collegiate level),” he said. “Now that other states have linked arms, as Governor Noem urged at the time, she is excited to protect girls’ sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, just as she’s done with her executive orders.”

In addition, the bill Noem is introducing is a more foolproof version of the one she refused to support months ago, she said.

“This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,” Noem told Fox News. “Those flawed provisions would have led to endless litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes — male and female alike.”

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