- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Opponents of a bill that would prohibit transgender students in South Dakota from using the bathroom of their choice are taking aim at the state’s $3.8 billion tourism industry.

Activists this week used a Twitter hashtag created by South Dakota’s Tourism Department to criticize lawmakers for advancing legislation the activists believe would lead to bullying and discrimination, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (https://argusne.ws/1R9yUQV ).

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is considering whether to sign the bill passed by lawmakers that requires transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their sex at birth. Advocates say the bill is meant to protect the privacy of students, but opponents say the legislation is discriminatory.

Dave Woodside, of Bear, Delaware, told the newspaper that his family plans to visit Mount Rushmore and the Badlands in August but will book accommodations outside of South Dakota if the transgender bill becomes law.

“Anything I can do to apply a little bit of pressure on the situation, I will do,” he said.

The effort to pressure Daugaard by highlighting potential tourism losses mirrors similar efforts in Indiana and Arizona, both of which recently saw backlash from bills that were criticized as discriminatory.

Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press on Thursday that South Dakota has heard talk of tourism boycotts in the past when controversial issues cropped up but “we’ve never seen a very tangible outcome from that kind of talk.”

He said the governor hasn’t yet received the bill or reached a decision about it, but plans to talk to people on both sides of the issue.

Top officials at the state Tourism Departments didn’t respond to phone messages from AP or the Argus Leader.

Nicole Ratzlaff, owner of a bed and breakfast in Sioux Falls, said she doubted the transgender legislation would put a dent in the number of visitors coming to the state.

“I see that more as a bullying tactic,” Ratzlaff said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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