Transgender bathroom bill puts South Dakota in the national spotlight

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SIOUX FALLS - South Dakota made headlines across the country after the House and Senate sent the transgender bathroom bill to his desk.

If he signs it, the law would be the first of it's kind in the country.

The passing of the transgender bathroom bill from the House and Senate chambers to the governor's desk has the bill's sponsor feeling proud, while the Sioux Falls School Board president expressed concerns.

Sioux Falls School Board president Kent Alberty said "I want to make sure, and we will continue to make sure, that all of our students are safe, that they feel safe in school, and that we treat them appropriately."

House Bill 1008 sponsor, Representative Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) "I got very pointed letters from young ladies who do not want boys, biologic boys, in the bathroom with them, it's a privacy issue, it's a modesty issue

"I'm very grateful, I had a lot of prayer and thought that went into the bill, and I'm just really grateful that a majority of my colleagues in the legislature saw fit to vote to support it," Rep. Deutsch said.

"I really believe that we need to recognize that students who are transgender are part of our society and need to be accepted," Alberty said.

This bill has some wondering what the potential side effects could be, not only for schools within the state, but the impression it makes on potential visitors.

A search for South Dakota on Twitter or Google this Wednesday shows many people have a lot to say about the state.

Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Teri Schmidt said "we love attention for South Dakota tourism, and we know we have a lot to be proud of, this kind of attention isn't necessarily what we would hope for."

The bill which proposes transgender students should use the bathroom of their biologic sex, rather than the sex they identify with, is close to becoming law. It's why many headlines aren't focused on the faces of Mount Rushmore but Governor Dennis Daugaard instead.

"Right now, I wouldn't say that we are concerned, we're watching it, because we don't know what's really going to happen," Schmidt said.

"I'm a little concerned that if the governor signs the bill, that is going to put our school districts out of compliance with Title IX," Alberty said.

"I don't relish the potential of getting sued, but we're defending our values, this is moms and dads in South Dakota saying we don't want our children showering with children of the opposite sex," Rep. Deutsch said.

Sioux Falls is the site of a women's basketball tournament in March. NCAA policy states no individual should be discriminated against on the basis of gender.

"We've worked hard as a community to get the NCAA to consider us, and to book. If they were to pull out, we'd feel really badly about that, we've not heard anything from them at this point," Schmidt said.

Schmidt hopes tourists still recognize the door is open to welcome everyone.

People know what a great product is here, so we have to hope that all that marketing and branding that's taken place over the years, will hold solid through this bumpy time," Schmidt said.

"Nobody wants to hear negative about the place they love, and have lived their whole lives, and work everyday to promote in such a positive fashion. There's so much good here, and so many good things that happen here, that when you hear something like this, it does take a stab at you," Schmidt added.

The negative nationwide attention focused on the state hasn't rattled the bill's sponsor.

"I'm really proud of the leadership that we've demonstrated here in South Dakota," Rep. Deutsch said.

Representative Deutsch also believes the bill wouldn't be necessary if the federal government didn't make changes to Title IX laws about sexual discrimination related to educational funding.