South Dakota has apologized to a transgender advocacy group and agreed to pay $300,000 in a settlement over a terminated contract.
South Dakota has issued an apology to a transgender advocacy group and must pay $300,000 under an agreement that settles a lawsuit against Gov. Kristi Noem and the state health secretary over a terminated contract.
The contract included a $136,000 state-administered federal grant, of which the transgender group received roughly $39,000, according to its attorneys.
Attorneys for the group accused Ms. Valenti of having canceled the agreement for political reasons.
As part of the settlement, South Dakota is required to pay $300,000 and issue a public apology.
“This settlement marks a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to civil rights advocacy,” Brendan Johnson, lead attorney representing the Transformation Project, said in a statement.
Ms. Noem’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement.
South Dakota’s contract with the Transformation Project was canceled on Dec. 16, 2023, after a reporter from The Daily Signal contacted her office to inquire about it.
“In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, Governor Noem stated ‘South Dakota does not support this organization’s efforts, and state government should not be participating in them,’” the transgender advocacy group wrote in its lawsuit, alleging that the contract cancellation was “based purely on national politics.”
The Daily Signal report cited in the complaint noted that the project “celebrates controversial medical interventions for minors and hosts events in which people ritually ‘burn’ their ‘old name or pronouns.’”
The Department of Health, which had originally awarded the contract, said in the cancellation letter that the group had violated contract terms.
The group disputed this claim, leading to the lawsuit, which alleged violations of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in the administration of federal grants.
The transgender advocacy’s attorneys also accused South Dakota of having violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit led to a settlement, under which South Dakota Secretary of Health Melissa Magstadt issued an apology letter, though the state did not have to admit to discrimination.
Transformation Project Executive Director Susan Williams said in a statement that she feels vindicated and the settlement sends a “clear and strong” message that “discrimination against transgender people will not be tolerated in South Dakota.”
Noem Sigs Law Banning Trans Surgery for Youth
Ms. Noem, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of transgender procedures for young people.
“South Dakota’s kids are our future. With this legislation, we are protecting kids from harmful, permanent medical procedures,” Noem said in a statement. “I will always stand up for the next generation of South Dakotans.”
These interventions include prescribing drugs to delay puberty and administering hormones in amounts greater than what is typically produced naturally in a healthy individual of the same age and sex, such as testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone.
The law also blocks doctors from performing sterilization surgeries or surgeries that artificially construct genitalia differing from the minor’s sex, and procedures that remove healthy or non-diseased body parts or tissue.
The law prohibits health care providers from violating the ban at risk of having their medical license revoked, and possible legal action.
Caden Pearson contributed to this report.