We’re in a pandemic recession, exacerbated in South Dakota by our Governor’s abdication of duty and Trump’s decimation of agricultural markets, and some South Dakota Republicans still want to focus on bullying transgender kids.
Speaker Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) and Representative Sue Peterson (R-13/Sioux Falls) used yesterday’s meeting of the Government Operations and Audit Committee to again challenge the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s policy of allowing students to participate on the sports teams that correspond to their actual gender:
Speaker Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, has said he is looking into the South Dakota policy to ensure that schools are aware of their legal and financial liability.
Swartos presented lawmakers with the results of a survey he sent to school administrators in summer 2019. Over 80% of administrators who responded supported the current policy.
But Haugaard took issue with how Swartos conducted the survey and asked him to send schools legal analysis and give school boards an opportunity to respond.
Sen. Susan Wismer, one of two Democrats on the committee, said the pressure on the issue amounted to unnecessary targeting of transgender children.
“I find this obsession with the potential of a transgender athlete creating unfair competition in interscholastic athletics petty, mystifying and obnoxious,” said Wismer, who is from Britton.
But Rep. Sue Peterson, a Republican from Sioux Falls and the committee chair, said that the policy deserved attention because developments at the national level could affect schools in the state.
“This is not petty,” she said. “This is not minute” [Stephen Groves, “Lawmakers Push Schools to Consider Transgender Sports Policy,” AP, 2020.09.23].
No, Sue, Susan is right: compared to coronavirus (445 new cases yesterday, highest daily count yet), compared to the enormous pressure our schools face in providing safe and effective education amidst a pandemic our Governor is mostly using as a political prop, compared to the top twelve issues on voters’ minds, your Trumpist ploy to grind the bones of transgender kids to make your political bread is entirely petty and obnoxious.
More importantly, it’s a hateful, bigoted political tactic that is quickly losing support among voters:
Making a wedge issue out of our lives ignores the real lesson of 2004, which is that the Republican Party can’t stop human empathy, no matter how hard they try. In 2004, 31% of Americans supported marriage equality, and their culture war campaign worked. Today, only 31% of Americans oppose marriage equality. It is the majority opinion in the United States that the Republican Party was wrong in 2004. Transgender rights are following in the wake of the marriage equality fight. No matter how hard you wedge us into your campaign, you’re wrong, and whether it’s this year, or next, Americans will realize it.
Campaigning against the rights of transgender people — especially transgender children and youth — should be seen for what it is: hateful, bigoted, and wrong. Don’t fall for it [Leah Finke, “Transgender Scare Tactics Are Back on the Republican Agenda. Here’s Why They Won’t Work,” USA Today, 2020.09.14].
Huge majorities, even among Republicans, say discrimination against LGBTQ individuals should be illegal:
Overall, nearly 7 in 10 adults say they support laws that ban discrimination based on whether a person is lesbian, gay, or bisexual (69%) or transgender (68%). This is similar to the share who support laws that ban discrimination based on race or ethnicity (71%) and only slightly smaller than the share who support laws banning discrimination against people with a disability (76%).
“Most Americans – including most Republicans — oppose discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said. “The public is shifting more quickly on these issues than the political and legal landscapes are” [Kaiser Family Foundation, press release, 2020.06.24].
Haugaard’s doubt-casting on the SDHSAA survey is also baloney. GOAC posts the survey online. Readers can see that SDHSAA conducted a straightforward survey, asking schools if they support the current policy, if they support various possible amendments, and if they’ve received complaints:
Majorities of schools support the policy, oppose weakening the policy’s universal protections, and report no complaints. Aggravated by facts that don’t square with his prejudices, Speaker Haugaard apparently wants to append his own legal brief to a new survey with questions loaded to produce results more to his liking.
Voters, if you’re sick of legislators bullying kids and grinding antiquated ideological axes instead of solving problems, you have options. Michelle Hentschel is running against Haugaard in District 10, in part because she wants to end Haugaard’s hateful distractions and solve pressing problems:
One recent piece of legislation that Hentschel considered a misuse of the state’s resources was House Bill 1057, which would have made it a felony for doctors to provide transgender healthcare to minors.
“I don’t know about you, but I had never seen this in the news,” she said. “‘Oh, this is a big problem in South Dakota. This is an area we need legislation to fix a huge issue.’ Nobody was asking for that.”
She’d rather help direct the state’s resources to an area that residents do want to support – K-12 public education, which didn’t get its usual fiscal boost this year.
“Our school system here is ranked one of the best in the state, and that’s for a good reason,” Hentschel said. “And I think it’s very important to a lot of people in this community that we have a superior education system – and yet we continue to not follow through on the promises that were made about teacher pay and education funding in K-12 … It seems like there has been some opposition to that with our current legislator – one of them, anyway” [link added; Jamie Hult, “Brandon Woman Takes Aim at District 10 House Seat,” Brandon Valley Journal, 2020.06.16].
District 13 voters can replace petty Peterson with the far more fact-based and fair-minded Norman Bliss, who says we need to welcome all people with respect and puts that value into practice by focusing on making sure kids have good mental health, enough food, and a livable planet, not bullying from fussbudgety do-nothings in Pierre.