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Thomas Gallatin / Mar. 23, 2021

Kristi Noem Backtracks on Gender Protection

The South Dakota governor has a change of heart in safeguarding female athletes.

Memo to Kristi Noem: What gives? The Republican governor of South Dakota has seen her popularity rise among many conservatives throughout 2020 over her principled stance for individual Liberty while other states stepped all over Americans’ constitutional rights during the COVID pandemic panic. Yet she recently threw a curveball when she refused to sign House Bill 1217 regarding sports and the so-called “transgendered.”

The legislation is aimed at providing protection to female athletes, as other states are beginning to do to counter the Left’s cultural assault. The South Dakota bill explicitly designates that, in order for a sport or team to be classified as female, it must be “available only to participants who are female, based on their biological sex.” The bill passed both the state Senate and House and Noem was expected to sign it into law, as she had previously promised to do so. However, it was suddenly left up in the air with her apparent change of heart.

In a letter sent to the state legislators, Noem characterized her decision to refrain from signing the bill as concern over certain “style” and “form” issues that she wanted addressed. However, in spite of her simple insistence at a Monday press conference that “only girls should play girls sports,” it would appear that Noem’s objections to the bill are more substantive than mere stylistic.

Margot Cleveland reports, “First, Noem requested the legislature strike Section 2 of the bill, which would have required students to annually verify their age, biological sex based on genetics and reproductive biology, and attest that they had not taken performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids, in the preceding 12 months.” Noem reasoned that such a stipulation created an “unworkable administrative burden on schools, who under its terms must collect verification forms from every student athlete every year.” Yet schools collect similar medical forms from student athletes every year, and have done so for decades.

Noem further wanted collegiate athletics exempted from the law, as she argued an attempt to mandate collegiate athletics would necessarily run into the problem of national governing bodies, and therefore would be “unrealistic” and “unworkable.” Translation: She doesn’t want the NCAA to punish her state.

In short, Noem wants a rewrite of the bill, which has several proponents of the legislation asserting that the governor is bowing to outside economic pressure. They have pointed to Noem’s statements in which she expressed concerns over “unintended consequences” from the bill. It is indeed true that certain business have expressed concerns that the bill’s passage would have a negative impact upon the state’s economic opportunities, but that’s leftist cancel culture for you.

South Dakota is scheduled to soon host NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments. That leads Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff to observe, “It’s very likely that the NCAA would refuse to hold such tournaments in South Dakota if the bill as passed by the legislature goes into effect. Noem’s revisions would remove any claim that South Dakota is out of compliance with NCAA competition rules.”

It does appear that Noem, who had given full support for the legislation initially, has suddenly gotten cold feet, probably for economic reasons. Speaking to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson on Monday night, Noem essentially confirmed that she folded to the NCAA, while also claiming that the bill was a trial lawyer’s dream. But if the governor has any designs on national office come 2024, she’s going to have to show a whole lot more backbone on a total layup of an issue if she thinks fans of a fighter like Donald Trump are going to give her the time of day.

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