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Senate committee axes gender affirming care proposal

Lee Strubinger

SB216 would modify some provisions relating to gender-affirming care for South Dakota minors.

Much of the opposition to the measure comes from an explicitly religious perspective.

Norman Woods is executive director of Family Voice, a lobbying group whose agenda explicitly aims for government to “bring glory to Christ.”

“We need to talk about the fact that there is a dangerous lie being whispered in the ears of our youth today – and that is that you are somehow a mistake," Woods said. "We are fundamentally opposed to that idea. We know that no child is born a mistake, and that every child is fearfully and wonderfully made. That is the basis of our opposition today.”

The position is one that some state lawmakers find frustrating. That includes the bills primary sponsor, Sioux Falls Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba.

“What I find most disappointing about this conversation is – I’m a Christian," Nesiba said. "I believe we are all made in the image of God and those who come up here and say that they have a God, and they use God to take away people’s God-given rights deeply frustrates me, and I think it explains why people are leaving churches nationwide.”

That sentiment runs especially deep for those who have seen the positive effects of gender-affirming care as it relates to mental health. Susan Williams, executive director of the Sioux Falls-based Transformation Project, said she’s seen it firsthand.

“My own experience with my son has shown me how incredible it is to see the light come back in their eyes," Williams said. "The transgender community is very marginalized and treated differently – and they’re just normal human beings. Trying to make it in the world.”

Ultimately, SB216 failed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-1 vote.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture