Policy leaders warned Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in a Monday letter that her edits to South Dakota legislation would hand collegiate female athletes to “the NCAA on a silver platter.”
“The South Dakota legislature got it right with HB 1217,” the 47 national and state policy leaders said in a coalition letter to Noem, “and your original excitement to sign it was on the mark.”
“We stand behind these legislators and South Dakota’s female athletes,” the letter continued. “Gutting the bill doesn’t help anyone win—it sends South Dakota and their girls and women back to the sidelines and sends the wrong signal to others across the country in the fight to save girls’ and women’s sports.”
The Monday letter pushes Noem to support South Dakota’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports” Act — legislation that Noem has sent back to lawmakers with suggestions. Monday is South Dakota’s Veto Day, the last scheduled day of the 2021 legislative session, and activists expect Noem to either sign the bill or veto it entirely.
I ask you to please pray for @govkristinoem. Tomorrow is Veto Day. The day will probably define the rest of her political career. She has had enough bad advice from lawyers about the Fairness in Women’s Sports bill. I am praying she seek advice from a higher-up source, 1/2
— Rep. Fred Deutsch (@FredDeutsch) March 28, 2021
The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported that the governor was wavering in her support for the legislation due to pressure from various interest groups in South Dakota. Though Noem said as recently as March 8 that she was “excited” to sign the legislation, her spokesman later told the DCNF that the governor was still weighing the bill.
Spokesman Ian Fury conceded Wednesday that Noem did indeed face “tremendous pressure from corporate bigwigs and the radical left alike to veto the bill,” but noted that Noem “didn’t do that.”
“Instead,” he said, “she returned it to the legislature with suggested changes because she wants these fundamental protections to pass and to survive a legal challenge.”
The letter is signed by leading national organizations including Alliance Defending Freedom, American College of Pediatricians, American Principles Project, Concerned Women for America, the Family Policy Alliance, Family Research Council, Heritage Action for America, Save Women’s Sports, and more.
During a press conference last week, Noem said she hopes that the adjustments she requested will be made, noting that legal experts told her that the bill in its present form would subject South Dakota to lawsuits the state could not win.
“I’m still incredibly excited to sign this bill,” Noem said.
She also highlighted that a coalition is being created separate from the bill which bans biological males from participating in women’s high school sports, adding that she hopes the coalition could grow large enough that the NCAA “cannot possibly punish us all.”
The Monday coalition letter to Noem claimed such a coalition already exists.
“We are already part of a large coalition defending female athletes across the country, and we are inviting you to join with us by supporting legislation that protects all women—kindergarten to college— and provides them with a legal remedy when their rights are violated, as HB 1217 does,” the policy leaders told the governor.
The letter noted that Noem has said that she wants to “win,” adding, “we do, too.”
“More importantly, South Dakota’s female athletes also want the opportunity to win—no matter at what level of competition,” the letter said. “This is why our coalition stands unapologetically behind these girls and women and won’t back down to pressure from the NCAA.”
“The NCAA itself doesn’t require its member schools to allow biological males who identify as female on female teams,” the policy leaders continued. “But even if it did have such a policy, we’d still rather stand proudly with female athletes than those who stand to profit off of them.”
Noem’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.