South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have blocked transgender students from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. The bill, pushed by conservative groups, would have been the first of its kind and was described as “a sincere effort to protect the bodily privacy of our children,” by Fred Deutsch, the Republican state representative who introduced it, but seen as a way of singling out transgender students by its opponents. Daugaard vetoed the bill because it did “not address any pressing issue” and would likely be challenged in the courts for violating federal civil rights laws. “If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them,” the governor wrote, defending his decision. “Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.”
Daugaard met with transgender advocates before reaching his decision, and said that after hearing their personal stories, he was able to see “things through their eyes in that sense.” The ACLU, which had campaigned against the bill welcomed the veto and said it sent a powerful statement to South Dakota students “that their governor respects them and wants them to feel safe in school.”
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