South Dakota may try override of transgender bill veto

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota House on Thursday may try to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a bill that would have required students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex at birth, even though the bill’s main sponsor had asked lawmakers not to do so.

Discussion of a veto override attempt was the first item on the House’s afternoon floor session agenda. But overriding a veto requires a two-thirds margin in both chambers, and it’s unclear if supporters have enough votes.

The bill passed the House by a 58-10 margin, and an override would need just 47 votes in the House to proceed to the Senate. But the legislation narrowly passed the Senate on a 20-15 vote, which would not meet the override threshold.

Senate Majority Leader Corey Brown, a Republican, said if the House votes to override the veto, the Senate would likely wait until next week to take action. He noted it’s usually an uphill fight to override a veto, “especially if you are short the votes the first time around.”

In his veto message on Tuesday, Daugaard said the bill “does not address any pressing issue” and that such decisions were best left to local school officials. Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, the primary sponsor of the bill in the House, asked lawmakers later Tuesday not to override the veto, saying more focus on the issue would detract from the Legislature’s other accomplishments this session.

Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said she hopes that the governor’s local control argument will resonate with legislators who originally supported the measure.

“I think this is a last-ditch effort to push something through that people know shouldn’t be moving forward,” Smith said.

Opponents said the legislation was an attack on vulnerable transgender students that would further marginalize them at school.

“I believe the people of this state have spoken very loudly in support of the transgender kids of South Dakota,” said Terri Bruce, a transgender man who opposes the legislation and was watching from the House gallery Thursday. “The governor has spoken, please respect that, and as elected officials, honor that.”

Transgender rights have become a new flashpoint in the nation’s cultural clashes following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage last year. The high court victory encouraged advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights to push harder, prompting backlash from conservatives.

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