All eyes are on South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard as he deliberates whether to sign or veto a bill that would make students statewide use the bathroom of their gender assigned at birth rather than their current-day gender identity, The New York Times reports.
The controversial bill, which opponents say is discriminatory and whose Republican author says is meant “to protect the innocence of children,” was passed by the state legislature last week. The governor now has five business days to act on it. It would be the first such bill in the country to be passed into law.
Daugaard met with transgender advocates opposed to the bill earlier in the week and said the meeting “helped me see things through their eyes.”
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Thomas Lewis, a transgender high school senior in Sioux Falls, says that the bill “creates more stigma” and increases the risk of bullying for transgender students. He says that it sends the message: “You’re so different, in a bad way, that you need your own bathroom, your own locker room, your own shower situation.” (The bill would allow for separate accommodations for transgender students.)
The bill appears to be in conflict with federal Title IX rules under the Obama administration that prohibit school discrimination based on sex, including gender identity.
“This bill would put schools in a very difficult situation, where they have to decide whether they want to comply with federal law or they’re going to follow what their state is mandating,” Heather Smith, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, which opposes the bill, tells The New York Times.
Individual school districts in places like California and Illinois have set up rules like those in the South Dakota bill–and federal officials have intervened, threatening to cut off their Title IX funding.