South Dakota governor Kristi Noem signed a bill Thursday, banning transgender girls and college-age women from competing in school sports that match their gender identity.
South Dakota thus becomes the 10th state to enact such a law and the first in 2022.
The bill is set to take effect July 1 but faces potential legal challenges, according to The Associated Press. Federal judges have halted enforcement of such laws in Idaho and West Virginia, while the Justice Department has challenged bans in other states as violations of federal law.
Noem, a Republican who has positioned herself for a 2024 presidential run, touted the ban at a bill signing ceremony in the Capitol, telling reporters: "We will ensure that we have fairness and a level playing field for female athletes here in the state of South Dakota, at the K-12 level and at the university level."
Opponents have decried the bill as bullying and say it sends a message that transgender people are not welcome in the state, the AP reported.
"At a time when young people are facing an unprecedented need for support, it is devastating to see politicians instead invent new ways to exclude them," said Sam Ames, the director of advocacy at The Trevor Project, which advocates for transgender youth.
As reported by the AP, Noem issued a "style and form veto" that led to the bill's demise last year, arguing that it contained flawed language that put the state at risk of litigation and retribution from the NCAA.
The NCAA did not immediately respond to the AP's request for comment on the bill's passage or whether it would take any action. The college athletics organization last month adopted a sport-by-sport approach for transgender athletes, allowing each sport's national governing body to determine its policy on transgender participation. But that approach has already raised controversy. On Tuesday, USA Swimming announced a new policy that could make it much more challenging for transgender women to compete at the elite level.