Monday, February 05, 2024

Transphobia costs - South Dakota settles lawsuit with transgender advocacy group for $300,000 and a public apology

South Dakota and its governor Kristi Noem recently learned a very expensive and hopefully humiliating lesson about transphobic animus. A lesson which cost the state $300,000 and a public apology.

From The South Dakota Searchlight:

The state of South Dakota has issued an apology letter and a $300,000 payment to a transgender advocacy group for the abrupt cancellation of a Department of Health contract in 2022. Those are the terms of a settlement agreement inked Thursday in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by The Transformation Project shortly after the cancellation. The group had a contract with the state, paid for with federal funds, to provide community health worker services to the LGBTQ+ community from its Sioux Falls headquarters. The cancellation came on Dec. 16, 2022, shortly after a conservative news outlet contacted Gov. Kristi Noem to ask why the state had signed the $136,000 contract.

And here is the clincher. 

The Transformation Project’s lawsuit cited Noem’s public comments on transgender people and her response to the conservative news outlet, made through spokesperson Ian Fury, as proof that the decision was discriminatory in nature. 

“The contract was signed without Gov. Noem’s prior knowledge or approval,” Fury told the outlet. 

 The state offered a series of alleged failures on the part of The Transformation Project as reasons for the cancellation, but the lawsuit argued that those reasons were meant to put “a thin gloss” of legitimacy on a discriminatory action. 

 The Searchlight said the settlement is over double the amount of the contract and also covers attorney fees. In addition: 

The community health worker hired through the contract, Jack Fonder, was also named as a plaintiff in The Transformation Project’s lawsuit. 

 As part of the settlement, the current Department of Health secretary wrote an apology letter to Fonder and the project’s director, Susan Williams. “On behalf of the State of South Dakota, I apologize that the Transformation Project’s contract was terminated and for treating the Transformation Project differently than other organizations awarded Community Health Worker contracts,” Secretary Melissa Magstadt wrote in the Jan. 17 letter. 

 She went on to “emphasize that all South Dakotans are entitled to equal treatment under the law — regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age, or sex.”

Noem is just one of the many Republican governors attempting to undermine the health and safety of the transgender community. Last year, she signed a bill into law which banned gender-affirming care for trans youth.