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“Dakota” Means “Ally”—Good Senate Speeches from Losing Fight Against HB 1008

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):

Sen. Tory Heinert, SD Senate, floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)
Sen. Tory Heinert, SD Senate, floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)

[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):

Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, SD Senate floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)
Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, SD Senate floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)

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.


  1. Hal Koiman 2016-02-16 22:58

    Why is it that modern Republican ideas always seem to reside at the intersection of fear, ignorance, and malice? I’ve never seen such mean-spirited people in all my life. Couple that with fear of the unknown/misunderstood, and a shocking degree of scientific ignorance, and you get HB 1008.
    Our Governor believes himself to be a good Christian. We will soon find out.

  2. John Wrede 2016-02-16 23:11

    The morality police strike again. This foolishness is absolutely unenforceable and those that might try to enforce it are going to have their careers ruined, their lives interrupted and communities divided. Religious fundamentalism has become the divisive tool that the bible says it would become. Let the courts deal with this.

  3. leslie 2016-02-17 02:02

    Washington post:

    S. Dakota is first state to pass bill requiring students to use bathroom that corresponds to biological sex

    The bill has provoked outrage from some activists, who say it discriminates against transgender children.
    By Sandhya Somashekhar

  4. LynnA 2016-02-17 06:07

    Thank you for this post. I appreciate being reminded of the sane comments that were presented on the Senate floor yesterday. I plan to contact those who voted “no” and send them my thanks.

  5. Mark Winegar 2016-02-17 06:30

    It is a a dark day for South Dakota.

  6. Francis Schaffer 2016-02-17 06:50

    What is the penalty for a school board ignoring the law? Will Marty himself prosecute the board members/school district?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-17 07:10

    Good question, Francis! No penalty is spelled out in this HB 1008, but I have a vague recollection that schools breaking state law may face loss of accreditation and funding. Does any know what statute or rule might govern schools’ general compliance with state law?

  8. Chief Carl Waln, Sr. 2016-02-17 07:34

    Tribes have leaders who speak for these kind of issues, our voice has the United States Congress backing. South Dakota Legislators need to leave these tribal issues to our format.
    Chief Carl Waln, Sr.

  9. Hal Koiman 2016-02-17 10:40

    Is it too late for bills to be introduced in this legislative session? Because as I see it, there is no enforcement mechanism in HB 1008. If we really want to be certain that students are using the facilities of their biological gender, then every student in the state will need to have a karyotype done, and have that information presented to the school. Otherwise, how will we know for sure if the law if being followed?? We need a compulsory student karyotyping bill to be introduced.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-17 10:47

    We can’t introduce new bills, but legislators can still “hoghouse” an existing bill—i.e., gut it and amend it into a completely new bill. They could use a different bill to create a karyotyping requirement or other enforcement in some other bill.

  11. Ian Brown 2016-02-17 11:22

    A totally nonsense bill. When did South Dakota suddenly have an epidemic of gender-vague school children? Are we being faced with a transgender takeover in our schools or something? What did I miss?

    This law deserves to be filed with other wacky state laws in history: it being illegal to have a pocket full of cheese. It being legal to marry your cousin.
    Or go to Nevada, where, if thrown in jail, they still to this day owe you a donkey and a purse full of silver.

  12. Les 2016-02-17 11:52

    Senator Tiezen, thank you for the inspired words that should go down in history on so many instances of good men and women(chicken spit) doing nothing.

    I question Omdahl on who he is sharing his darks secrets with. Ted was working for the kids and DSS loved him as you might love a Teddy.

    Is it time for a lawsuit against those who diminish SD’s tourism industry and selectively discriminate with this crap?

  13. Len M 2016-02-17 13:15

    @Hal Koiman

    That’s another thing; this bill speaks nothing of enforcement. What Rep. Deutsche said at the Senate Education Committee hearing was that if someone was born with ambiguous genitalia (so, Intersex), that they would get a genetic test done, and then that test would determine the ‘true’ sex of the child, and that’s what would be put on their birth certificate, and that’s how they would be enrolled in school and such. This bill makes a bedfellow with one that just passed the SD House State Affairs Committee: HB 1209

  14. Bob Newland 2016-02-17 13:31

    I sent an email to the governor: “Please use HB 1008 as toilet paper and send it to Sen. Deutsch via certified mail.”

  15. Hal Koiman 2016-02-17 14:45

    @Len M

    So what is the penalty for a child with complete testicular feminization, who has “female” listed on her birth certificate, by is chromosomally XY? Parents may not even be able to explain this situation to the child until they are intellectually equipped, possibly well in to high school, the child may not know her chromosomal sex. If some malefactor finds out her medical history and that she is using the girls’ facilities at school, even though she may have her entire life, what is the penalty?? Are Republicans unable to grasp the concept of unintended consequences? And the ignorance of the proponents of this bill for basic biology is truly criminal.

    Let my pick another nit if I may. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Sanford Health had put together an educational program for legislators about chromosomal sex and its relation to gender, as well as all of the interesting things that can go wrong in embryology and development? They could have brought together geneticists, endocrinologists, surgeons, psychologists, and counselors, and done some good for the state of South Dakota. Instead, they chose to spend their millions on lawyers and lobbysists in an effort to corner a market and increase their bottom line.

  16. jake 2016-02-17 19:53

    Leave it up to this bunch of Neanderthals to put the onus of enforcement on those already overburdened school districts to enforce said law! Even birth certificates as Jenny (a nurse I assume) sometime ago stated can be wrong. Governor, this will show your mettle–veto this vigorously, please.

  17. Donald Pay 2016-02-17 22:09

    Where I live there is a pretty large transgendered community. The high schools here deal with this issue all the time, and do it well. The students seem to handle it very well. I personally know two transgendered people, one of whom uses our bathrooms where I work. We have male/female/unisex bathrooms. It really isn’t a big deal. What Bernie Hunhoff said is right on.

    Schools can handle this stuff. Sexual assaults in schools occur more in isolated stairwells, not in well-trafficed areas like bathrooms.

    And the “little girl” talk is really out of line. Most middle and high school girls aren’t as squeamish and bigoted as some of those aged male legislators. I would suggest the “little girls” give these legislators lessons in how to be a decent human being.

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