Students, Senate react to ‘transgender bathroom bill’

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Executive GSA member Chris Hartzler embraces senator Iris Le and student Miranda Samson after learning that Gov. Daugaard vetoed the House Bill 1008.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed House Bill 1008 Tuesday, March 1. The bill would have required transgender students to use bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms based on their biological sex in any public elementary or secondary school.

South Dakota was thrust into the national spotlight for this bill, which was sent to the governor’s office on Feb. 23. The governor had five business days to act on it.

Students across South Dakota State’s campus reacted to the so-called “bathroom bill,” including the Students’ Association. SA met to discuss a variety of topics Monday, Feb. 29 and among them was Resolution 15-19-R: SDSU Students’ Association Opposition of HB 1008. 

According to SA bylaws, there needs to be two reading periods before SA can vote on a resolution. A motion was made to suspend the organization’s bylaws, so the resolution could be read and voted on in one meeting.

In order for these bylaws to be suspended, 17 votes were needed, which is a two-thirds majority. The motion received 16 votes.

Sen. Jenna Croymans argued that because Gov. Daugaard would be deciding on the bill the following day, it was the Senate’s responsibility to take a stance.

Sen. Lane Speirs opposed suspending the bylaws.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t consider it an emergency issue to discuss. I wanted to be able to talk to my constituents on this and ensure that their voices were heard,” Speirs said in an interview Tuesday. “It was hard to see the members of [SDSU’s Gay Straight Alliance] leave the room after the vote, especially for those who voted no.”

Speirs said that, as of now, he sees no direct need for HB 1008.

Twenty members of GSA attended the Senate meeting to show support for the resolution. 

As the bylaws were not suspended for the resolution, audience members left the room. 

“I would like to kindly voice disappointment,” GSA member Jasmine Martin said as she left the meeting.

Chris Hartzler, transgender student and executive member of GSA, was present at the meeting in support of the resolution.

“I didn’t even get to speak tonight because you decided to silence me and the entire group I stand for,” said Hartzler, a fifth-year hospitality management major.

SA plans to further discussion on the issue of House Bill 1008 when meetings resume Monday, March 14 after Spring Break. The GSA members said they plan to attend.

Olivia Siglin traveled to Pierre with the SDSU Democrats to lobby against the bill earlier in February. Siglin is a fifth-year animal science and agricultural leadership major.

“This is a human rights issue. They’re targeting a group that’s four times more likely to commit suicide,” Siglin said. “The whole issue is completely unnecessary for a state law and the legislators who spoke on this are really misinformed.”

Some students have mixed feelings about the bill, including junior history major James Brule. 

“I am more of on the fence at this point, I endorse what it stands for, but I don’t think I stand for this bill,” Brule said. “I can see where the bill is seen to be helpful. I can see where it’s trying to protect children and women from being raped. But, I’m not sure if this is the right wording for this, though, or if this is the right bill.”

Brule is Catholic, but said his religious stance doesn’t shape his views on the subject. He said there needs to be a separation of politics from personal feelings on these issues.

Shepard Fairfax, a first-year student who attended SDSU during the fall 2015 semester but recently transferred, spoke out to the state’s legislators, urging them not to endorse the bill. He said that as a transgender student in South Dakota, this issue comes very close to him.

“A word that I’ve heard come up again and again is innocence. In terms of a public restroom, there’s already well-insured privacy. This is just a potential Title IX violation and we’d likely lose a lot of government funding to our education in the state,” Fairfax said. “I thought laws were supposed to fix problems, not create new ones.”