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BREAKING: South Dakota House fails to override transgender bill veto

BREAKING: South Dakota House fails to override transgender bill veto
PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota House failed on Thursday to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have required transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their birth gender, but the bill’s main sponsor said supporters should re-group to come back with a “better, stronger bill.”

The override attempt needed two-thirds support in the chamber, but supporters didn’t get enough votes.

The attempt came two days after Daugaard vetoed the bill, saying it didn’t address any pressing issue and the matter was best left to school districts. The governor had also warned that such a law could invite litigation against both the state and its schools.

The bill originally passed the House by a 58-10 margin, and an override would have needed just 47 votes in the House to proceed to the Senate. But the legislation only narrowly passed the Senate on a 20-15 vote, which would not meet the override threshold. Senate Majority Leader Corey Brown, a Republican, said ahead of the House vote that overriding a veto is usually an uphill fight, “especially if you are short the votes the first time around.”

Bill opponent Terri Bruce, a transgender man who watched Thursday’s vote from the House gallery, said he was “ecstatic” after the failed veto override, which he called “an absolute relief.”

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 Thursday not to override the veto, saying it should “die a dignified death” in the House, rather than send it on to the Senate.

Before the failed override, Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said she hoped that the governor’s local control argument would 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 have said the legislation was an attack on vulnerable transgender students that would further marginalize them at school.

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.

Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender activist and former Olympic decathlon gold medalist, had called on Daugaard to veto the bill. Opponents also used the South Dakota Tourism Department’s Twitter hashtag to take aim at the state’s roughly $3.8 billion tourism industry.

Daugaard initially offered a positive reaction to South Dakota’s proposal, but said he wanted to research the issue before making a decision. Last week, he met with three transgender individuals and heard their personal stories; before the meeting, he said he had never knowingly met a transgender person.

Deutsch said Tuesday that the bill was meant to be a practical solution to “our evolving social values on gender issues.” Deutsch said he still believed the bill was a good piece of legislation, but said national focus on South Dakota should be on the state’s business environment and the excellent work being done it the state’s schools.

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Lammers reported from Sioux Falls.

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