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Social conservatives strongly praise new Fairness in Women's Sports bill proposed by Gov. Kristi Noem

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has released the draft text of a new version of the "Fairness in Women's Sports" legislation she rejected earlier this year. The new bill, which was sent to reporters Tuesday, would prohibit any student at a state school from joining a sports team that does not match his or her biological sex.

“This is about fairness. Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports,” Noem said. “Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way.”

Controversy erupted last March when Noem opposed a previous version of this legislation, H.B. 1217, on the grounds that the way the state House bill was written was "unrealistic in the context of collegiate sports." At the time, the governor argued that flaws in the bill's design would make South Dakota vulnerable to litigation from out of state organizations like the NCAA.

Social conservative groups that backed H.B. 1217 accused Noem of betrayal and of gutting the bill when she issued a "style and form" revision of the legislation and sent it back to the state legislature with changes. The legislature ultimately rejected Noem's changes, and she vetoed the bill.

In its place, Noem issued two executive orders on Mar. 29 designed to keep gender dysphoric males from competing against girls at the K-12 and collegiate level. The new legislation proposed by Noem would codify her executive orders.

“Only female athletes, based on their biological sex, shall participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls,” the draft text says. Noem's proposal defines “biological sex” as “the sex listed on the student's official birth certificate issued at or near the time of the athlete’s birth.”

The bill would also give any athlete that "suffers direct or indirect harm" as a result of a school that violates the law the right to take legal action for relief.

“This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,” the governor said. "Those flawed provisions would have led to litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes – male and female alike.”

The new transgender sports bill appears to be winning over at least some of Noem's conservative critics.

"No exaggeration: It's probably the strongest bill I've seen to date. Especially with the birth certificate stuff and the private causes of action," Jon Schweppe, the director of Policy and Government Affairs for the American Principles Project, said.

In a statement, APP President Terry Schilling, who had sharply criticized Noem for opposing H.B. 1217, praised her new proposal as well.

"We're pleased that Gov. Noem is finally taking action in South Dakota to adequately protect female athletes. Our initial impression of her proposed legislation is that it is a strong measure to defend the integrity of women's sports from K-12 to college. We encourage state lawmakers to support it and officially make South Dakota the tenth state to enshrine protections for women's sports into law," Schilling said.

He added that it was "unfortunate" Noem waited nine months after the issue first came up in the South Dakota legislature to release this proposal, criticizing her executive orders as "toothless."

"Although it's good to see her correcting her mistake, she missed a golden opportunity to show leadership on this issue. We hope she will learn from this experience and choose to stand up to woke business interests and leftist institutions the next time a similar fight arises. She still has much work to do to gain back conservatives' trust," Schilling said.

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