South Dakota’s Bill Banning Health Care for Trans Kids Killed in Committee

HB 1057's defeat marks a major legislative victory for LGBTQ advocates in a bellwether fight for trans rights nationally.

Above: Twelve-year-old Oliver Mikkelsen traveled from Sioux Falls to the South Dakota capital of Pierre to ask his lawmakers not to take away his trans-affirming health care.

South Dakota’s bill barring trans kids from receiving affirming health care is officially dead.

On Monday, February 10, the state’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee was moved to kill House Bill 1057 just hours after Sen. Wayne Steinhauer met with transgender 16-year-old Elliot James, who lives in his district.

The committee elected to kill the bill by a 5-2 vote.

Kate Sosin
17-year-old Quinncy Parke testifies against HB 1057.

“I wasn’t going to let this pass,” said 17-year-old Quinncy Parke, who is non-binary and testified against the bill on Monday and before the House. “I stood up against this once. They didn’t listen before. I’m going to keep doing it until they listen.”

The vote marks a major victory for trans South Dakotans and LGBTQ advocates nationally. The bill is seen as bellwether in a string of anti-trans measures pending in state legislatures nationwide. It had already passed the state’s House, so the committee was viewed as a last-ditch effort to kill the bill before it headed to a Republican-dominated Senate.

Kate Sosin
Elliot James (far right) asks Sen. Wayne Steinhauer to oppose the bill.

As NewNowNext previously reported, HB 1057 aimed to make it a criminal offence for trans youth under the age of 16 to receive gender-affirming health care—including puberty blockers, which temporarily pause puberty until a young person can decide if they want to medically transition. An 11th-hour amendment by House Sponsor Rep. Fred Deutsch eventually removed the criminal penalty, but doctors still could have faced civil repercussions under the bill.

However, a threat remains that HB 1057 can be revived in a legislative runaround called a “smokeout”: If a third of the Senate votes to bypass the committee’s decision, then the bill will be brought to a vote.

Among those impacted is 12-year-old South Dakotan Oliver Mikkelsen, who came out as trans a year ago and is on puberty blockers. He traveled from Sioux Falls on Monday to ask his lawmakers to vote no.

“If they pass this bill, they are going to try to pass more,” Mikkelsen tells NewNowNext. “They might make it so that in schools, they might just not say my name or my pronouns.”

Monday’s vote follows a harried campaign by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) to mobilize transgender South Dakotans, parents, and their allies on the ground over the last month against the bill. Advocates from the ACLU of South Dakota and HRC targeted legislators in the capital of Pierre, too.

Kate Sosin
Damon Hainline, a field organizer with NCTE, takes count of protesters headed from Sioux Falls to Pierre on Monday.

On Monday, a handful of LGBTQ people and allies marched for hours in the cold protesting HB 1057 in front of the capitol.

HB 1057 is among five anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in South Dakota’s brief 40-day session. The most extreme, HB 1215 goes as far as outlawing marriage equality, gender marker changes, and LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Even Rep. Fred Deutsch—the architect of HB 1057 and other anti-trans measures in the state—has called that bill anti-LGBTQ.

But LGBTQ South Dakotans and their allies say lawmakers like Deutsch have contributed to a climate in the state that threatens their safety and wellness beyond these bills.

South Dakota has served as ground zero testing anti-trans legislation for the last five years. In 2016, the state became the first in the U.S. to introduce legislation barring trans kids from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender. That measure passed, but was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Kate Sosin

Parke and James are already anticipating fighting future anti-trans measures in the state. Every bill introduced in South Dakota automatically gets a hearing. The means that even HB 1215, the bill banning marriage equality, will have its day.

Please note: This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.
 

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.
@shoeleatherkate