PIERRE, S.D. (CN) - Governor Dennis Daugaard late Tuesday vetoed a South Dakota bill that barred transgender students from using public school restrooms for the sex with which they identify.
House Bill 1008, which the Legislature sent to the governor for signature in late February, was the first of its kind approved nationwide. It stipulated that public schools restrooms "shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex."
Daugaard, a Republican governor in a Republican state, took heat from national organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and celebrity transsexual Caitlyn Jenner. He said he thought long and hard for five days before deciding to veto the bill, and was concerned about what South Dakotans thought, not about opinions outside the state.
Daugaard met with transgender students, including Kendra Heathscott, who told the Argus Leader newspaper that Daugaard had "gone out of his way to get educated about transgender folks."
Having met Daugaard once as a child, Heathscott said, "He has the same strong heart that I was aware of when I was younger."
In his veto message to the Legislature, Daugaard said the bill would interfere with South Dakotans' preference for "small government."
"As policymakers in South Dakota, we often recite that the best government is the government closest to the people," Daugaard wrote. "Local school districts can, and have, made necessary restroom and locker room accommodations that serve the best interests of all students, regardless of biological sex or gender identity."
The governor said the bill would interfere with "the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students and replaces that flexibility with a state mandate."
He also expressed concern that the bill would invite litigation that would divert energy and money from schools.