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Group to push transgender bathroom bill in South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The leader of a conservative advocacy group in South Dakota said he plans to push for another bill to bar transgender students from using bathrooms or locker rooms that don't match their gender at birth.

The group approved a draft of the bill last week, Family Heritage Alliance executive director Dale Bartscher told the Argus Leader. It calls for schools to provide accommodations for "students with unique privacy needs, including transgender students."

Bartscher said it's important for the Legislature to debate the issue in 2017. He said he hopes the bill could be approved there sooner than at the ballot box, where voters could have a chance to weigh in on the issue in 2018.

"We don't want to see any initiated measure in 2018, we want to see the Legislature approve it and the governor sign it," Bartscher said. "This issue is on the front burner for a lot of South Dakotans."

The legislation's details, including which legislator would sponsor it, weren't clear Wednesday. The Legislature previously approved a similar bill, but Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed it.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, the Center for Equality and Human Rights Watch have launched fundraising campaigns to raise awareness about transgender students' challenges.

Terri Bruce, a transgender rights advocate from Rapid City, said lawmakers should consider the repercussions that would come with the proposed bill.

"South Dakota depends on state sales tax revenue to run the state, if our state enacts some law that targets trans kids, there is going to be an economic backlash," Bruce said.

Bruce added "we just have to ask ourselves, 'Why are we targeting children?'"