With the start of the new year, at least seven states across the U.S. have threatened to pass legislation that would limit the rights of transgender and nonbinary youths in sports and other everyday activities, including using the bathroom. Of those seven is South Dakota, whose governor has consistently advocated for the ban of transgender girls and women from female sports.
But Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has recently taken to a different approach to advocate her anti-trans and homophobic views. After not getting the reaction she wanted from a bill she proposed in December, Noem released a national advertisement on Wednesday promoting the legislation that targets transgender youth.
While the ad does not directly use the word “trans” or “transgender” it promotes the bill Noem says will be “the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports” if passed.
“In South Dakota, only girls play girls’ sports,” the ad says. “Why? Because of Gov. Kristi Noem’s leadership. Noem has been protecting girls’ sports for years and never backed down.”
According to ABC News affiliate KOTA, while focused on South Dakota, the ad will appear not only in state television but national television markets across the country. It includes video footage of Noem at different times throughout the last year, including a press conference following her veto of a transgender sports bill during the 2021 session, and an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on why she chose to veto the bill.
LGBTQ advocates denounced the ad on Thursday.
“I am certain that Governor Noem would much rather talk about this issue than her pandemic response,” Gillian Branstetter, media manager for the National Women’s Law Center, said according to NBC News. “We have significantly larger problems. For example, problems that exist! Those would be good problems to solve, as opposed to conjuring fictional ghosts of a changing society and attempting to exploit people’s ignorance.”
The legislation looks to ban trans girls from playing on any female sports teams at school, including club teams. It also requires schools to use the sex listed on a student’s birth certificate “issued at or near the time of the athlete’s birth” to determine which team they are allowed to play on. According to NBC News, the proposed legislation follows multiple executive orders that banned transgender students in K-12 schools and universities from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
“Common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition,” the governor said in a statement when she first proposed the bill in December.
This bill is the eighth attempt by South Dakota lawmakers to restrict trans athlete participation, according to the ACLU of South Dakota.
“Gov. Noem’s proposed legislation is clearly fueled by a fear and misunderstanding of transgender people in our state,” Jett Jonelis, advocacy manager for the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement.
The ACLU and other legal organizations filed lawsuits against the ban when it was announced in December, alongside similar legislation across the country.
The anti-trans bill’s first hearing is scheduled in Senate State Affairs Friday morning. The House counterpart has yet to confirm a hearing date.