Tuesday afternoon, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) announced that he had vetoed HB 1008, legislation that would have blocked all public schools from accommodating transgender students. It would have been the first state law in the country to regulate which restroom transgender individuals can use in a restrictive way.
In his statement accompanying the veto, Daugaard explained that the bill “does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota.” Instead, he suggested that “local school districts can, and have, made necessary restroom and locker room accommodations that serve the best interests of all students, regardless of biological sex or gender identity.” Those districts should continue to have such control.
“Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state,” the statement read.
The governor also acknowledged that the law would invite not only complaints from students, but also federal litigation. He dismissed promises from conservative legal groups that advocated for the bill like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel to provide pro bono work, because it would not protect schools from other costs nor damages.
The week the bill passed the legislature, Daugaard admitted that he had not ever knowingly met a transgender person. In the weeks that have followed, he met with various transgender students, who shared their stories of ostracization and humiliation because of anti-transgender bullying or discriminatory policies. A petition started by trans high school student Thomas Lewis urging Daugaard’s veto accrued nearly 9,000 signatures.
Daugaard asked the legislature to sustain his veto, but the fight might not entirely be over. The House’s vote on the bill was a wide 58–10, though the Senate’s was a narrower 20–15. In addition, similar bills have been proposed and are still pending in several other states.
State Rep. Fred Deutsch (R), primary sponsor of HB 1008, said Tuesday evening that he will not pursue an override of the governor’s veto.