After the overwhelmingly conservative legislature in South Dakota passed a bill to protect female athletes from being forced to compete against transgender-identified males, Governor Kristi Noem inappropriately used her “style-and-form” veto (typically reserved for small matters of punctuation) to significantly diminish the bill’s ambit.
The legislation would have upheld the biological definition of sex, ensuring that “any athletic team or sport” sponsored or sanctioned by a public school, school district, qualifying association, or institution of higher education would have to be “expressly designated” as either a male, female, or coed team. But after Noem’s changes, these protections are inapplicable at the collegiate level and meaningless anyway since she also removed a basic requirement for biological-sex verification.
Appearing on Fox News to justify her decision to an indignant Tucker Carlson, Noem claimed she acted after consulting with legal scholars for “many, many months” and had been “working on this issue for years.” In other words: Trust me, there’s a great strategy here!
Except that there isn’t. And whoever these legal scholars are, Noem would be advised to immediately dump them. Her veto, which made sweeping substantive changes rather than small stylistic ones, was a flagrant violation of her powers and sets an unwelcome precedent for future governors to abuse their powers in a similar way.
Noem told Carlson that the “real issue” with the bill, as presented to her, was that “it wouldn’t solve the problem” of boys being allowed into girls’ sports, since it “would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota” and thus “prevent women from being able to participate in collegiate sports.” An alternative, she suggested, would be to pursue justice for female athletes and defeat the NCAA by building “a coalition.” This meant setting up a website, DefendTitleIXnow.com, which appeared after the controversy.
As she faced a backlash among conservatives — including many who had previously praised her governorship — her spokesman blamed the reaction on conservative cancel culture. Anybody who thinks that a politician taking criticism for a public action is cancel culture clearly has not been paying attention to what that cancel-culture debate is all about.
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