*By Julie Barrett, Founder, Conservative Ladies of Washington
Conservative darling, Governor Kristi Noem, returned a bill to South Dakota legislators last Friday that she was expected to sign. She had previously been “excited”, even, to sign this bill. House Bill 1217 is designed to promote fairness in women’s sports, banning transgender women from participation in girl’s sports at the K-12 and collegiate levels. This apparent “about-face” by Governor Noem has many conservatives, myself included, concerned and for good reason.
On Friday, Governor Noem returned HB-1217 with requests for the legislature to strike certain sections of the bill and/or make changes to the way the bill was written. Margaret Cleveland writes in an article for The Federalist:
“The most striking changes Noem demanded, however, came in her insistence that the legislature strike collegiate athletes from the bill’s protection and eliminate Section 4’s promise of a remedy to girls and women harmed in a violation of the bill, or who were retaliated against for complaining about violations of the law. Let’s break these changes down a bit, because they render the entire proposal meaningless.
Section 4 added a second protection for South Dakota student athletes: It also protected students from retaliation if they report violations of the act to a school representative, athletic association, or a state or federal governmental entity with oversight authority. Thus, for instance, if a female basketball player complained to an athletic department that a coach had allowed a male athlete to join her team, and the school responded by banning the complaining student from school-sponsored sports, the female student would be entitled to sue the school for retaliation.
In sending the bill back to the state legislature, Noem made two requests related to these interrelated provisions: She excluded collegiate athletes from the bill’s coverage and then directed the legislature to strike, or delete, Section 4 in its entirety.”
Governor Noem excludes collegiate athletes from the bill altogether, claiming that HB-1217 would somehow go against NCAA regulations and that if this bill were signed into law, South Dakota female athletes would be excluded from competing in NCAA events and tournaments.
Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel states: “The truth is, Gov. Noem has taken the legal teeth out of this bill and her hands are not tied by any NCAA policy, like she’s claimed. She has the ability and the opportunity to be a serious champion for girls and women, and we hope she does so by signing the legislation, which demonstrates real courage and seriousness in addressing the challenges facing a rising generation of young women. If Gov. Noem is concerned about litigation, as she said today, ADF would stand with her to defend H.B. 1217 if she signs this legislation.”
Yesterday Noem created a coalition to defend Title IX.
For years, courageous female athletes like Selina Soule and Chelsea Mitchell have been in the arena, fighting for a fair and level playing field for female athletes. ADF and a large coalition of athletes, legislators, governors, attorneys general from 14 states, and many others have been honored to stand with them in both the courts and legislatures. While we appreciate that Gov. Noem has now taken an interest in coalitions aimed at protecting girls and women’s athletic opportunities, she is not only late to the game, but she is now trying to play coach. – Kristen Waggoner
These are all FACTS. Nothing more, nothing less. They are facts that should cause us pause and concern. However, I have noticed something very interesting in this particular case: many people are having a very difficult time looking at the facts because of their affection for Governor Noem. And I get it, I really really, like her too and this really doesn’t sit well with me.
It’s important for us to remember that politicians and elected officials are human, just like the rest of us. They cave to pressure and they sometimes make bad decisions. It doesn’t make them bad people and it doesn’t mean we have to stop supporting them. And it definitely means we should continue to pray for them. I believe that our courageous conservative leaders are facing an extremely fierce battle. We must pray for their strength and wisdom, their discernment and their protection and safety. I believe these leaders face an immense amount of pressure and threats from opposing forces. It’s important for us to remember this as we see things like this play out.
We must hold these leaders accountable. If we don’t, the line keeps getting pushed back. The line has now been pushed so far, we’re discussing a bill that just a decade ago would have been a no-brainer. Transgenders playing girl’s sports? No way! But not in 2021, now it is a controversy that we would not allow transgender women to play in girl’s sports and we’ve got a “conservative darling” in the hot seat over it.
We can’t afford to concede to the left anymore. We must take a firm stand and deal with the potential battles that come as a result. We cannot allow our leaders to be bullied by leftist organizations. We cannot allow threats of boycotts to sway our leaders. They need to know we’ll fight back with them. We must band together as we see with these 14 AGs from other states and 3 other governors and fight the good fight. We need our leaders to stand strong and to stand up and then we must have their back.
We need to be able to hold leaders like Kristi Noem accountable. That doesn’t mean that we abandon them and turn against them…not at all! It’s kind of like parenting: when your kid makes a poor decision, you don’t get rid of them, you work through it with them. While I don’t think we’re going to be parenting Governor Noem, we do have the right and the responsibility to acknowledge and speak out when a bad decision is made. This is not a good decision. This is not protecting our girls.
As for me, I very much still respect and admire Kristi Noem as a leader. I do hope that this situation will be corrected.
Here are some great interviews you may be interested in if you’d like to learn more about this issue.