Building an Ark. That Respects Girls' Rights

March 26, 2021

After a week of fierce pushback, Governor Kristi Noem's (R-S.D.) controversial position on girls' sports just got even lonelier. The South Dakota governor, who's been hoping for cover on her veto from other state leaders, continues to stand alone now that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) has inked his name to a law very similar to the one Noem rejected. Thanks to the hard work of the state legislature, the Land of Opportunity State is exactly that for female athletes.

By a combined vote of 103-25, the bill called the Fairness in Women's Sports Act sailed through the House and Senate, making a very compelling case for Hutchinson to sign the law and avoid the avalanche of criticism that continues to bury Kristi Noem. State Senator Missy Irvin (R), who sponsored her chamber's version, insisted that there's absolutely nothing controversial about letting girls and women compete on a level playing field. They need a private cause of action, she argued, because "They should have the same opportunity as a man to pursue and reach their goals."

A cause of action, which is the opportunity for girls to sue, is one of the things that Kristi Noem stripped out of her bill in the abuse of her "style and form veto." The editors of NRO, who called the Dakota governor's decision outright "capitulation," argued that substantive changes like that one "was a flagrant violation of her powers and sets an unwelcome precedent for future governors to abuse their powers in a similar way." Fortunately, Arkansas legislators didn't fall prey to Noem's hollow messaging and refused to sacrifice any portion of the policy.

Hutchison, who was heavily lobbied against the bill by woke corporations and the far-Left, released a statement Thursday saying that he's "studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue. I signed the law as a fan of women's sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully. This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women's competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women's sporting events."

Arkansas is now the third state to protect girls -- and, if the wave of legislation in other states is any indication -- it's about to have company. Next in line to join Idaho, Mississippi, and Arkansas is Tennessee, where Governor Bill Lee (R) has a chance to join the movement with the bill currently on his desk. Meanwhile, North Carolina is getting into the game, introducing its own bill at a press conference this week. West Virginia continues to move its version, sending HB 3293 out of the House of Delegates by a lopsided 78-20 vote and over to the state senate.

Governor Noem still has a chance to dig herself out of the mess she created and sign South Dakota's original bill. As NRO points out, "This is not difficult. Either boys should be allowed in girls' sports, or they should not. If Governor Noem does not understand this -- or worse, if she is unwilling to stand up for what's right -- then perhaps she should get out of the way for someone who will."