Over the weekend, Governor Kristi Noem came under fire from conservatives after refusing to sign a bill prohibiting transgender girls and women from playing in girls’ and women’s sports leagues. This is a hot-button cultural issue, but I would caution my fellow travelers from making snap judgments and employing purity tests. That behavior ran rampant in the 2016 primary, and we see it as a feature, not a bug, when it happens on the Left. While it is understandable that conservatives are often let down by our elected leaders and we have a reason to be skeptical, let’s take a deep breath for a minute.
I watched Noem’s interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight Monday evening and listened to her speak with radio host Glenn Beck Tuesday morning. According to her statements, the bill can go through to protect girls 18 and under in the state of South Dakota but requires some changes related to an individual’s right to sue if they lose a competition to someone who used performance-enhancing drugs. The section of the bill she is asking the legislature to hold off on is the collegiate level portion of the bill.
According to Noem, she has been consulting with legal experts and professors to figure out how she could defend the entire bill once it passed. There are concerns about how the bill as written would fare in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and about the NCAA leading a public relations campaign against the state. We saw this when North Carolina passed a bill to keep bathrooms segregated by biological sex. According to CNBC at the time:
Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.
North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North Carolina won’t be among them as long as the law is on the books. The NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.
In March 2017, the North Carolina legislature repealed the bill. Similar threats were levied against the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) modeled after federal legislation sponsored by then-Representative Chuck Schumer in 1993. The RFRA died on Deal’s desk, and Hollywood threatened boycotts again when Governor Brian Kemp signed the Heartbeat Bill restricting abortion.
Kemp signed that bill, and he was not alone. At the time, several states had similar bills under consideration or about to be signed by other governors. The pro-life movement was coordinated in states with GOP trifectas, and while there would be court challenges, Georgia would not have the only contested law. What happened to North Carolina spooked other states from following suit, and bills providing sex-based protections in restrooms evaporated nationwide.
Noem is not just protecting stadiums and tournaments. She is saving South Dakota businesses from facing the adverse effects seen in the North Carolina economy. In 2018, North Carolina’s estimated GDP was $566 billion. South Dakota’s GDP in 2019 was $46.81 billion. It would take a much smaller boycott to injure South Dakota’s economy deeply.
Noem is seeking to coordinate with other states to fight the NCAA. There are 23 state governments run by Republican governors and legislatures right now. It should not be controversial to pass legislation supported by the Republican base in these GOP trifectas. Noem has joined with Golfer Nancy Lopez and NFL stars Herschel Walker and Jack Brewer to build a coalition of voters and state leaders to unite on the issue. Can Amazon yank distribution facilities from all 23 states? Can the NCAA take tournaments out of all of them? That would be a lot more complicated.
Yes, there are states considering these bills right now. None have reached the governor’s desk yet (except in Idaho, where a court suspended the law). Protecting girls under 18 in South Dakota while working to ensure a robust and multi-state stand on collegiate sports does not seem like an abdication of the principle. Noem cited her fight against the USDA’s ruling that would have had girls and boys competing in the same rodeo events in 4-H programs. She also noted her willingness to stand up to the lockdown advocates throughout the pandemic.
Please take a deep breath, and let’s see where this goes. There are bills in moving in at least ten states, with more coming on board during their legislative sessions. This issue is not the only one Republican states will have to coordinate on to defend. Should the Democrats end the filibuster in full or in part, state coordination will become even more important to protect religious liberty, the Second Amendment, and prevent a federal takeover of elections. 2024 is a long way off, and we need to get through 2022 first. There is plenty of time to honestly assess a candidate’s entire record and make a decision. Knocking people off the bench now is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.