After announcing her intent to sign a piece of legislation protecting girl’s and women’s sports, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem refused to sign the Fairness in Women’s Sports bill (H.B. 1217) on Friday, sending the legislation back with a “style and form” veto.
“Unfortunately, as I have studied this legislation and conferred with legal experts over the past several days, I have become concerned that this bill’s vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences,” Noem said after rejecting the bill, adding that “I am also concerned that the approach House Bill 1217 takes is unrealistic in the context of collegiate athletics.”
Instead, Noem elected to propose a bill specifically directed toward high school and elementary schools, leaving out collegiate sports altogether.
Journalist Ryan Girdusky did not have pleasant things to say about Noem after the news came out, tweeting: “Here’s the short story: The Chamber of Commerce and big business is pushing against conservatives nationwide on critical race theory and transgender sports. Kristi Noem is a swamp creature who caved to special interests over conservative voters. The end.”
Commentator Jesse Kelly also chimed in, tweeting on Saturday: “The System makes it so easy, appealing, and profitable to comply. The System makes it miserable to rebel. Only people with the courage to rebel will save this nation. Time to find out if @govkristinoem is ready for prime time.”
Republican South Dakota state Rep. Rhonda Milstead fired back at Noem’s about-face on signing the bill, saying: “Legislators are the ones who make the laws and the governor signs them,” she said. “She’s gutting the bill and writing a new law and that’s not her job.”
The “style and form” veto, according to Milstead, is usually reserved for fixing typos and clerical errors, the Argus Leader reports. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) General Counsel Kristen Waggoner blasted Noem for the move as well.
“Gov. Noem had an opportunity to protect women and girls by signing the Fairness in Women’s Sports bill, but instead she pandered to the demands of special interests,” Waggoner said in a statement.
“In what was an abuse of her ‘style and form’ veto power, she gutted protections for collegiate athletes and took away legal recourse for girls forced to compete against biological boys. We are shocked that a governor who claims to be a firebrand conservative with a rising national profile would cave to ‘woke’ corporate ideology,” Waggoner continued.
“The governor tried to explain her betrayal with claims that her hands were tied by NCAA policy,” Waggoner said. “But there is no NCAA policy that requires schools to allow males to compete on women’s teams as Gov. Noem suggests. The governor also vetoed the part of the bill that gives girls any legal recourse against unfair policies that arise. What’s left is mere lip service for women and girls forced to compete against biological males.”
The attorney went on to add that she hopes Noem “will reverse course and make this right by signing the bill passed overwhelmingly by the South Dakota Legislature. Anything less—including an ‘initiative’ promoted by a few athletes at a press conference—will be more empty words.”
Before Noem sent back the piece of legislation, the Republican indicated her enthusiasm to sign H.B. 1217.
“GREAT NEWS! The South Dakota Senate just passed the Women’s Fairness in Sports bill, 20-15. It now heads to [Gov. Kristi Noem]‘s desk for signature,” the non-profit organization American Principles posted on March 8, which is also International Women’s Day.
Noem responded on Twitter, writing: “In South Dakota, we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports! I’m excited to sign this bill very soon.”
The question of biological males who identify as trans women being allowed to compete in women’s sports has been hotly debated over the past several years. Congress is currently looking at federal legislation, known as the Equality Act, that would punish women’s athletic programs that do not welcome biological men to compete.