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Legislative Attack on Transgender Students Really, Really Dead—But Not Without Jensen Mischief

Senator Phil Jensen, R-33/Rapid City
Senator Phil Jensen, R-33/Rapid City

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:

  1. Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton), committee chair and prime instigator of the SB 140 hoghouse.
  2. Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls).
  3. Rep. Karen Soli (D-15/Sioux Falls).
  4. Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission).
  5. Senator Jim White (R-22/Huron).
  6. 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.


  1. Roger Cornelius 2015-03-12 16:05

    The one word that jumped out at me while reading the committee report was “adjourn”.
    They should all adjourn as soon as possible, pack their brief cases and go home before they do further damage to the children of South Dakota.

  2. Porter Lansing 2015-03-12 17:18

    … hateful, uncompassionate and obdurate Republicans with unabashed disdain for anyone different. Political correctness is a term they use to mask criticism of these selfish over privileged whites.

  3. Joan Brown 2015-03-12 17:51

    I don’t know why anybody would object to transgender students playing sports. It is getting to be more and more common for girls to be on boys wrestling teams. I don’t know why their parents would even allow that.

  4. mike from iowa 2015-03-12 18:06

    If gawd had wanted transgender kids,by gawd he/she/it would have made them……..wait…I meant its the damn liberals that made these kids that way. Yeah,Libs and the ACLU. That’s the ticket.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-12 18:45

    “Rep. Haugaard then offered a harsher amendment.”
    And his harsher amendment was all about ignoring real information, knowledge, facts and expertise.

    There we have the right wing, 1%, oligarchy playbook: Pay no attention to anything but our fears, prejudices, hatreds, and whatever will make us even more shamefully wealthy! Woo-hoo!

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-12 19:21

    Joan, I’m sure it’s a learning experience for all involved. Is a girl wrestling a boy any weirder than a boy wrestling a boy?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-12 19:22

    I imagine, Mike, that for the kids the SDHSAA policy helps, political labels are irrelevant. They just want to (1) be themselves and (2) play ball. Why do we grown-ups have to complicate that with our petty games?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-12 19:24

    Anti-intellectualism, Deb. Right on the head. Ignore experts, ignore evidence, ignore reality. These transgender bills seem to be focusing on a small issue, affecting a small fraction of the population, but they are big because (among other things) they are emblematic of what we’re up against in uprooting Republican control of this state.

    Any chance we’ll be able to use this bill against the Republicans in 2016?

  9. mike from iowa 2015-03-12 19:41

    Has not a thing to do with the kids,Cory.

  10. Porter Lansing 2015-03-13 09:15

    The way to change ….. recognize, label and ridicule. Extremist Republican overreach CAN be mitigated with this centuries old technique. The days of the milquetoast liberal in South Dakota have waned. Join our “BILLY JACK LIBERAL” movement by exposing, consigning and deriding the selfish and arrogant among us. (PS … on “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” – correct is correct and it matters little what THE SOW’s (selfish overpriviliged whites) say when attempting to deflect their personal bigotry.)

  11. Joan Brown 2015-03-13 17:50

    Cory, you do make a point about wrestling. I have always thought school type wrestling looks kind of suggestive, but I always thought it was my old age that made me think that way. I know a lot of people think I’m an old fogey. When my kids were elementary/middle school age there used to be some good professional wrestlers on TV. They weren’t these overly bulked up ones you see now. My whole family enjoyed watching pro wrestling at that time. To me what little I see of school wrestling on the news it looks like they come awfully close to groping each other at times. My that is just my senior citizen eyes. lol

  12. Lynn 2015-03-13 18:48

    It sounds like there are plans to bring back another version of HB 1195 and SB-140 next year. In addition I’m sure there will be a 2016 anti-LGBT Boogieman/Boogie woman bill introduced by the usual suspects in an attempt to scare people for something that does not exist.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-13 21:41

    Boogie fever!

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