Today was not a good day in the South Dakota Legislature. Social media is aswirl with the ignorance, dissemblage, sexism, and spite displayed by the Republican majority that voted for House Bill 1008, the paranoid potty bill. Only Governor Daugaard’s veto pen can save us from further shame and humiliation and maybe a tourism boycott (though how many visitors have we lost over the past decade over our regressive abortion restrictions?).
So let me try to close the day on a good note, by spotlight the best things said by South Dakota Senators during today’s floor debate on HB 1008 [SDPB video, beginning 1:30:40]:
Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission):
[Referring to remarks earlier in the day from visiting Congresswoman Kristi Noem]: We heard from our Representative from Washington about unneeded regulation. This is truly unneeded regulation. Why is that 35 of us think we know better than the school districts and the parents and the people that it would affect the most?
…And when does the discrimination stop? Is it just transgender? Or do we go next year, is it, well, I don’t like blond hair blue eyes? I don’t like Natives? We’re going to tread down a very serious path. And we can all say, “Oh no, that’s not what this means, that’s not what this means!” But that’s how it starts. This is exactly how it starts.
Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison):
[Responding to HB 1008 lead Senate sponsor Sen. Brock Greenfield’s (R-2/Clark) dismissal of his question about legal liability for schools as a “rabbit trail”]: I don’t really consider this to be a rabbit’s trail, with all due respect to the prime sponsor of the bill. We could be talking about several thousands or millions of dollars if we’re found—if a school is found to be in fault on this issue.
Senator Angie Buhl O’Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls):
I am deeply concerned that by passing this bill we are putting our schools at risk of losing their Title IX funding. If there are lawsuits—and there almost certainly will be—there may be private assistance to help with that, but those private entities would not cover the damages or fill in lost Title IX funding, which across the state of South Dakota is over $200 million. Schools are struggling financially as it is, and I’m not sure how we’re going to fill in the other 200 million as a state if this goes through. We’re having a hard enough time with the other funding issues as it is.
…And maybe this bill was not intended to be disrespectful, but I would submit this: if someone, a whole community of people, tells us that we are hurting them, who are we to decide that we didn’t? This fight was not brought to us by the transgender community. They just want to live their lives in peace.
…I’m reminded of the comments that we heard from the new commander of the USS South Dakota when he came and addressed this body, when he said the word “Dakota” literally means friendly or ally. And as a fourth generation South Dakotan, that’s the state I’ve always wanted us to be, and I hope that we can continue to be that.
Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton):
I’ve not heard from anybody who had a single example of a problem, a single incident in which the local school district wasn’t handling the issue appropriately, not a single, single case.
…We’re fixing nothing, but we’re creating problems.
…Communities have to be accepting of everyone. Many of our young people do not want to live in communities where people are not accepting and open-minded of people who may be different from the traditional you and me.
…I’ll promise you, a lot of the really good businesses in America want to relocate in places that are progressive and open-minded and tolerant.
…Young people think we’re crazy.
…[later, responding to a statement from Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) that HB 1008 is about protecting innocent little girls]: It suggests that transgender youth are… out there preying on other kids. That just needs to be corrected for the record. These are kids who are probably very much at risk in their schools…
High school’s hard enough if you’re the quarterback who can throw the ball 50 yards or if you’re the top cheerleader or if you’re the straight-A student. It’s tough enough then. But think how tough it must be for these kids. These are probably the last kids that are going to be molesters or preying on other kids. They’ve faced adversity, and they’re probably gentler and wiser for it. Let’s not be adding to their burdens.
Senator Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City):
My experience and good sense tell me to stay seated. This is an issue that most people have made their mind up and they don’t need or want to listen, they want to move on. But my conscience requires me to stand up, because despite the good intentions, I think, of the sponsors, this bill is causing pain to a significant minority in our community.
Thank you, Senator Tieszen, for letting conscience overrule your “good sense.” Thank you and Senator Deb Peters for standing up to speak against this latest legislative embarrassment for South Dakota. Thank you Senators Tieszen, Peters, Fiegen, Soholt, Tidemann, Vehle, and White for opposing your Republican colleagues and voting with the wiser and solid Democratic caucus against this bad bill.
As commentators heap scorn on our state, please point them toward the words of these Senators and remind them, “We South Dakotans aren’t all bad.” That’s a poor state motto (and it won’t save any school board from a lawsuit it will lose)… but tonight, thanks to our Legislature, it’s the best we can do.