- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A measure that would void a high school activities association policy allowing transgender students to request to play on the athletic team of their choice is headed to the House floor after passing through a committee on Wednesday.

The bill would require the Legislature’s consent for any future South Dakota High School Activities Association policy on transgender student athletes. The policy, originally adopted in 2014, stirred up concerns among some Republican lawmakers, who tried but failed to reverse it last year.

Dale Bartscher, who lobbies for the conservative group Family Heritage Alliance Action, said there was “quite a firestorm unleashed on the state of South Dakota” after the association adopted the “ill-advised” policy.

Efforts to block it during the 2015 session stalled in the Senate after easily passing through the House.

It’s time to void the policy and start over, Bartscher said. The House State Affairs committee voted 10-3 to send the measure to the full chamber.

Republican Rep. Roger Hunt, who sponsored the measure, said it would allow more time to revisit the issue. No transgender students have submitted requests to the association under the policy, association Executive Director Wayne Carney said.

But opponents contend that the bill would create more barriers for transgender children.

Terri Bruce, a transgender man who testified against the legislation, said people don’t transition to another gender to gain access to certain locker rooms or to play on different sports teams.

The 52-year-old from Custer County said he’s concerned with lawmakers’ attacks on transgender people.

“To be singled out, to have lawmakers of the state target you and to draw attention that you might not want because you’re different, these are children. They’re children,” Bruce said. “I don’t understand why they can’t be left alone to decide who they are.”

Bob Riter, a lobbyist for the activities association, said the policy was thoughtfully created through significant effort from local school districts and their representatives. He asked the committee to vote down the bill and let the policy work.

The policy was revised in November. It aims to provide a way for transgender students to participate on the sports teams that reflect their gender identities rather than the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The policy requires a student and parent to notify the school that a student wants to play on the sports team that matches their gender identity.

The school submits the application and documentation to the association for review by an independent hearing officer who must be a licensed attorney and a member of the State Bar of South Dakota.

A separate measure that would have regulated the activities association’s policymaking abilities failed in a different committee on Wednesday.

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Follow James Nord on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Jvnord

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