The South Dakota Legislature threw six legislators into a room to see if they could fix Senate Bill 140, the last-ditch attempt of House Republicans to repeal the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s transgender participation policy. They failed to put forward an agreeable bill, but they gave Senator Phil Jensen a chance to be thoroughly disagreeable.
The conference committee consisted of these legislators:
- Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton), committee chair and prime instigator of the SB 140 hoghouse.
- Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls).
- Rep. Karen Soli (D-15/Sioux Falls).
- Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission).
- Senator Jim White (R-22/Huron).
- Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City).
Senator Jensen opened with an amendment to leave the SDHSAA policy in place but require the association to hold harmless from litigation any private school that avails itself of the religious exemption the SDHSAA added to the policy last November. That amendment appeared harmless, if not pointless (lawyers? care to explain the implications?), but it failed on a tie vote, with Senator White joining Democrats Heinert and Soli in opposition.
Rep. Haugaard then offered a harsher amendment: he wanted to repeal the transgender policy and forbid the SDHSAA from making any reference to standards of care from the World Profession Association for Transgender Health… also known as experts. Haugaard’s amendment would have restricted SDHSAA to considering standards of transgender of care from the American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association. The APA recommends WPATH in a FAQ sheet on transgender issues. The AMA has said that…
…The World Professional Association For Transgender Health, Inc. (“WPATH”) is the leading international, interdisciplinary professional organization devoted to the understanding and treatment of gender identity disorders, and has established internationally accepted Standards of Care for providing medical treatment for people with GID, including mental health care, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery, which are designed to promote the health and welfare of persons with GID and are recognized within the medical community to be the standard of care for treating people with GID [American Medical Association House of Delegates, Resolution 122, 2008].
Haugaard’s amendment deadlocked along the same 3–3 split.
Then Senator Jensen, with frustration that even the black-and-white minutes of the conference committee cannot hide, moved (with Rep. Haugaard’s second!) to amend SB 140 to read as follows (Jensen’s text in bold):
The transgender policy adopted by the board of directors of the South Dakota High School Activities Association at its meeting on June 11, 2014, shall apply to the legislators elected to the South Dakota Legislature during session and interim committees.
ACLU-SD’s Libby Skarin reports that Senator Jensen apparently felt he was striking a blow against hypocrisy: in committee, he said something to the effect that if the SDHSAA’s transgender policy is good enough for kids, it should be good enough for the Legislature.
While I would welcome Senator Jensen’s effort to identify and remove any gender-based barriers to participation in the Legislature, I suspect his intent was more to trivialize the debate with a provocative rhetorical ploy that disrespects all sincere parties seeking sincere discussion of transgender issues in high school activities.
The conference committee, mercifully, did not act on Senator Jensen’s wisecrack. Throwing in the towel, Rep. Bolin substituted a motion to not concur and not appoint, meaning report to the Senate and House that SB 140 cannot be fixed and should be discussed no further. All conferees but Jensen agreed, and the committee adjourned, leaving SB 140 for dead… which we can only hope will be the same state of all the bullying Senator Jensen and other Republicans have heaped on South Dakota’s transgender students this session.