South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem proposed new legislation Tuesday that would bar biological males from competing in women's collegiate athletics, months after she faced conservative criticism for vetoing a similar measure in March.

The draft, two-page legislation says, “Only female athletes, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls,” and that any athlete harmed by noncompliance would be entitled to “injunctive relief.”


“This is about fairness,” Noem said in a press release. “Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports. Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way.”

Noem, a Republican who is widely seen as a possible 2024 presidential contender, was roundly criticized early this year after she issued a “style and form veto” to a bill passed by the state Legislature that likewise would have barred biological males from competing in women’s athletics.

The veto, which the state Legislature failed to overrule, landed Noem in hot water among conservative pundits and activists, who accused her of caving to external pressures, specifically the NCAA.

The South Dakota governor defended herself in a National Review op-ed, saying the Legislature’s bill was “a trial lawyer’s dream” and would have “immediately been enjoined” if she had signed it.

“Conservatives should not doubt my desire to fight on this issue,” Noem wrote at the time. “I previously stood against the federal government when the USDA attempted to force girls to compete with boys in 4-H rodeo. I didn’t have other leaders standing with me in that fight, but we won it, nonetheless.”

Her new proposal, she said in the press release announcement, “does not have the problematic provisions” that led her to veto the Legislature’s bill in March.

Noem’s new proposal comes as a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania named Lia Thomas, a biological male who identifies as a woman, has sparked national controversy after breaking numerous women’s distance freestyle records less than two years after competing as a male.


Several members of the Penn swim team have spoken to media outlets anonymously to express dismay at Thomas’s continued aquatic dominance, but the Ivy League university has thus far stood by the student-athlete.