South Dakota lawmakers intent on introducing retreads of discriminatory transgender "bathroom bills" at future legislative sessions, pay heed.
The same goes for our governor, who has explicitly stated that she would sign such a bill were it to pass.
Take note that the United States Supreme Court recently declined to hear exactly such a case, letting a lower court's ruling stand. Pay special attention to the robust legal reasoning underpinned by solid precedent in that ruling, which let stand a Pennsylvania school district's policy allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity while allowing all students the option to use private facilities.
Republican Fred Deutsch's 2016 House bill would have required trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their chromosomal and anatomical sex assignment at birth. Former governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed that bill.
But Deutsch and his compatriots have remained undeterred, returning each year since with proposals meant to limit the rights of transgender students — including repeated efforts to legislate where they can go to the bathroom or change their clothes for gym class.
In the wake of SCOTUS's refusal to hear Doe v. Boyertown, Deutsch told the Argus Leader he thinks it's only a matter of time before the high court agrees to hear a case on that issue and that the state legislature will continue to grapple with it as long as it is an issue in South Dakota.
"Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes students that struggle with their beliefs, whether they're a biologic boy or biologic girl," he said. But, he added, they also need to have personal privacy from the opposite sex in a restroom or locker room.
The U.S. Court of Appeals decision, the end of the judicial road for the Boyertown case, cites various precedents directly addressing discrimination based on gender stereotypes in both educational and workplace settings.
The body of case law, in other words, continues to grow in a direction that Deutsch and company may not like but need to stop railing against.
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Daugaard's 2016 veto was met with a collective sigh of relief from South Dakota business interests, including state and city chambers of commerce as well as major economic players like Sanford Health, Citibank and Wells Fargo.
That's because, as First Premier chief executive officer Dana Dykhouse said in 2016, "This is a big world now, not just South Dakota, and there are consequences to our actions."
The NCAA, for instance, has made no bones about pulling big events out of states that enact discriminatory laws. It did just that when North Carolina enacted an anti-trans bathroom bill. The Summit League basketball tournament hosted by Sioux Falls — just one of the events that could be affected — has an annual economic impact that surpasses $10 million.
Tourism takes a hit in states that make these kinds of discriminatory laws as well, owing to bad publicity, boycotts and state bans on government-funded travel.
The passage of a discriminatory "bathroom bill" could expose school districts to lawsuits that will have to be defended by the state attorney general's office — not an ideal strategy when it comes to thinly-stretched state coffers.
Better yet for elected leaders to make peace with the march of human progress, bolstered by judicial precedent. Not simply because it's the right thing to do, although that's powerful incentive.
Leadership doesn't stem from "fixing" an imaginary problem to appease those who stoke misinformation and fear at the expense of an already vulnerable group of young citizens.
It comes from reading the situation, seeing plenty of pitfalls, and acting in the best interest of what our state should represent for future generations.