This week, the 2022 legislative session kicked off, and I presented my State of the State address to the people of South Dakota. I described how South Dakota is stronger than it has ever been in its 133-year history. This did not happen because of what government did. It happened because of what government did NOT do. To preserve what we have and grow even stronger, we need to remember why government exists in the first place – to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
One way a young girl exercises her liberty is on the fields and in the gyms of South Dakota: playing basketball, swimming competitively, and running track, just to name a few popular sports here in the Mount Rushmore state. It is in playing sports that a young girl can learn how to achieve and how to succeed. But some in our society want to take those opportunities to succeed away from our young women. Some schools and organizations across the country have sought to take away their freedom to achieve by changing the rules of the games.
When our children participate in sports and activities, they learn valuable lessons like teamwork, perseverance, and hustle. For many activities, the playing field is level for boys and girls: debate, theater, and academic competitions, to name a few. But for other activities, the playing field is not equal between boys and girls because of basic, common-sense biology.
Allyson Felix is an American track and field star. She has won 25 Olympic and World Championship medals, including 17 gold medals, the most of any track and field athlete ever – male or female. She specialized in the 400-meter race, with a lifetime best of forty-nine-point-two-six seconds. Yet HUNDREDS of high school aged boys have run faster times than that. Common sense tells us why. Boys’ and girls’ bodies are biologically different.
In South Dakota, only girls can play in girls’ sports according to the executive orders I signed almost a year ago. To advance that action even further, earlier this month I asked the Legislature to introduce my bill ensuring fairness in girls’ sports.
Congress passed Title IX years ago to guarantee that girls have a level playing field on which they can succeed — to ensure their liberty to achieve. They can win high school championships, maybe earn scholarships, maybe even go on to play professional sports. We need to protect the freedom of our young girls to go out there and do it.
How do we achieve this through the legislature?
We will establish a framework that will allow parents to challenge schools that allow students who are born male at birth to compete in girls’ sports. The legislation I am proposing includes the ability for a parent to hold schools accountable in court. Parents will be able to sue to play, not to pay. This is not about creating financial windfalls — it is about ensuring parents have the tools to fight for their daughter’s ability to compete on a level playing field.
This issue matters to me for many reasons. I participated in high school sports. I wasn’t as good as my two daughters, Kassidy and Kennedy, who both played college sports. If my girls had competed against men, their ability to compete would have been dramatically limited. Participating in college sports teaches teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and grit. It develops talent and skills. I would not have wanted my daughters to miss out on such an opportunity.
I have led the charge on this issue for years. When the USDA tried to force boys and girls to compete against each other in 4-H Rodeo, I led the fight to protect fairness for girls. And we won in 2018 because we approached the fight in a smart way.
Now we will make sure we have the strongest law in the country.