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South Dakota to Pay $300,000 and Issue Apology in Settlement with Transgender Advocacy Group

In a legal dispute that has culminated in a settlement, a transgender advocacy group has secured a significant win against South Dakota’s Republican Governor, Kristi Noem.

The state has issued an apology letter and agreed to pay $300,000 to The Transformation Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ community.

The Transformation Project’s Contract

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The Transformation Project entered into a contract with the State of South Dakota in September 2022, aiming to establish a Community Health Worker Program.

Program To Support Underserved Communities

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The program, funded partially by a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was designed to provide support to underserved communities. Governor Noem’s decision to terminate this contract stirred controversy.

Cancellation of the Contract

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Governor Noem canceled the contract on December 16, 2022, shortly after facing inquiries from a conservative news outlet about the group’s Gender Identity Summit and the reasons behind contracting with The Transformation Project.

Noem Distanced Herself From the Project

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In response, the governor distanced herself from the organization, claiming that she had not been aware of the contract.

Her spokesperson, Ian Fury emphasized that“South Dakota does not support this organization’s efforts, and state government should not be participating in them.”

Further Rift

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The statement further said, “We should not be dividing our youth with radical ideologies. We should treat every single individual equally as a human being.”

Fury added that by neglecting to submit quarterly reports, The Transformation Project had broken its contractual obligations.

Legal Battle Ensued

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The Transformation Project initiated a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that Governor Noem canceled the contract due to political considerations.

They argued that the state’s intent was to discriminate against transgender individuals.

Further Revelations

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The lawsuit also revealed that the governor’s office had supported the group’s mission and even encouraged them to request increased grant funds.

During this controversy, the Department of Health Secretary, Joan Adam, resigned from her position.

Settlement Terms

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The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed, resulting in a settlement. Melissa Magstadt, the current Department of Health secretary, issued a letter of apology to The Transformation Project and its director, Susan Williams.

The state agreed to make a $300,000 payment to the advocacy group.

Letter Acknowledgement of Differential Treatment

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While the state did not admit liability for discrimination, the letter acknowledged the differential treatment received by The Transformation Project.

Reactions to the Settlement

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Jack Fonder, a transgender man and LGBTQ+ activist who joined the lawsuit, described the settlement as an exciting moment for the transgender community in South Dakota.

Susan Williams, the director of The Transformation Project, expressed vindication through the settlement.

Williams said in a statement, “This settlement sends some clear and strong messages: that discrimination against transgender people will not be tolerated in South Dakota.”

Brendan V. Johnson’s Statement

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Brendan V. Johnson, former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, who represented the advocacy group, emphasized that “This settlement marks a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to civil rights advocacy.”

Governor Noem’s Controversial History

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Governor Noem’s clash with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, her stance on sending resources to Texas for border security, and previous disputes with the tribe highlight her history of contentious interactions.

She had also threatened to sue the tribe during the pandemic and signed legislation requiring the posting of “In God We Trust” signs in public school classrooms.

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