BROOKINGS – Dozens of area residents gathered Saturday morning at the corner of Sixth Street and 17th Avenue at the Hillcrest Park parking lot, protesting against House Bill 1217.
The bill proposes that “a team or sport designated as being female is available only to participants who are female, based on their biological sex,” prohibiting transgender girls from participating in female sports at public schools.
The bill’s sponsors say it will promote fairness in female sports. Opponents of the bill include the American Civil Liberties Union, which says it is unconstitutional.
The bill has passed in the state House of Representatives on a 50-17 vote last Wednesday, and it’s been scheduled for a hearing this Wednesday in Senate State Affairs.
About 60 people attended Saturday’s protest, waving signs and flags in support of the trans community in South Dakota. Brookings was one of seven protests that took place Saturday morning across South Dakota.
Some drivers who passed the protest Saturday honked in support, while others displayed their middle finger in opposition.
South Dakota has gained national recognition for the amount of transgender-related bills that have been presented in the state Legislature in the past seven years.
Representative of the Transformation Project Advocacy Network, Louise Snodgrass, was the primary organizer for the protest in Brookings.
“If Brookings really cared about its perfect MEI (Municipal Equality Index) score, they should consider trans people, too,” she said.
The MEI score is an examination of a city’s laws and policies. The Human Rights Campaign reviews the laws and policies and rates the city based on non-discrimination laws. This past year, Brookings earned its third perfect score in a row. It’s the only city in the state to have earned a perfect score and one of only a handful of cities in the country to achieve it three years in a row.
The Argus Leader reported that more than 75 people gathered at the Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls as part of the statewide protests. Protesters held signs promoting rights of transgender people, and chanted “Transphobes have got to go!” and “Trans rights now!”
Susan Williams, executive director of the Transformation Project Advocacy Network, said, “We want to show these trans kids that we have their backs, we’re here for them and there are people here that will fight for their rights.”
A group of South Dakota teachers participated to show support for their students.
Ashley McKeown, a Roosevelt High School teacher, said, “I think it’s important for them to see that their teachers are fighting for them not just inside the classroom but outside the classroom as well.”