Transgender Advocates Win $300K Settlement as South Dakota Offers Apology

Transgender Advocates Win $300K Settlement as South Dakota Offers Apology

South Dakota has issued an apology and agreed to pay $300,000 as part of a settlement with a transgender advocacy group. The group had filed a lawsuit against Governor Kristi Noem and her health secretary in response to the state’s termination of a contract with the organization.

The legal resolution was announced on Monday by attorneys representing the Transformation Project. The nonprofit initiated legal action after the state canceled a contract for a community health worker in December 2022.

The contract, which involved a state-administered federal grant of approximately $136,000, resulted in the group receiving about $39,000 before termination, as stated by its legal representatives.

“This settlement marks a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to civil rights advocacy,” lead attorney Brendan Johnson stated. “We commend the resiliency of the LGBTQ community and remain committed to vigorously upholding their rights.”

“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,” states a letter dated January 18 and signed by Melissa Magstadt, the state’s secretary of health.

“I want 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. South Dakota is committed to ensuring that no person is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subject to discrimination under any program, activity, or service that it provides,” she wrote.

Magstadt was not the health secretary when the contract was terminated; her predecessor announced retirement shortly after the state ended the contract. The Transformation Project had already hired a community health worker before the termination occurred.

The state claimed contract violations in a letter from the deputy secretary, notifying about the termination. The group insisted they had complied with the terms.

Noem and the state Department of Health spokespersons did not respond immediately to email requests for comments on the settlement.

Williams mentioned that the organization plans to apply for future grants from the state, hoping that similar groups will now feel more confident to apply as well.

The nonprofit offers assistance for LGBTQ individuals and their families, including suicide prevention, guidance through healthcare and social services, and education on gender identity.

In recent years, South Dakota and other Republican-led states have enacted laws that sparked complaints about discrimination against transgender people, such as restrictions on school sports participation and the prohibition of gender-affirming care for kids.


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