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White House slams Gov. Kristi Noem for saying she doesn't know why LGBTQ people in South Dakota have high rates of depression

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2/18/2022 oseddiq@insider.com (Oma Seddiq)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signs a bill Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., that will ban transgender women and girls from playing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity. AP Photo/Stephen Groves © AP Photo/Stephen Groves South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signs a bill Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., that will ban transgender women and girls from playing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity. AP Photo/Stephen Groves
  • The White House slammed Noem for saying she didn't know why South Dakota's LGBTQ people have a high depression rate.
  • "That makes me sad, and we should figure it out," Noem said.
  • Noem signed a bill into law banning transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams. 

The White House on Friday derided Republican Gov. Kristi Noem because she was unable to answer a question about the high depression rate within South Dakota's LGBTQ communities.

"Here's a start for you, Governor," White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted in response to a clip of Noem. "1. Don't advance policies that attack trans youth, 2. Don't fund ads attacking LGBT youth, 3. support @POTUS' agenda to enhance support for youth mental health needs, with funding made available through the American Rescue Plan."

Around 87% of LGBTQ residents in the state reported experiencing feelings of depression, the highest rate in the country, according to a recent national study by HelpAdvisor. The clip in Jean-Pierre's tweet shows a reporter asking Noem about the issue at a news conference on Thursday.

"Why do you think that is?" the reporter asked Noem.

"I don't know," Noem replied. "That makes me sad, and we should figure it out."

Noem made national headlines earlier this month after she signed a bill into law banning transgender girls and college-aged women from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity. South Dakota is the first state to do so this year, and the 10th nationwide. 


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"This bill is about fairness," Noem said at the time. "It's about allowing biological females in their sex to compete fairly in a level playing field that gives them opportunities for success."

Prior to the bill's passage, Noem released an advertisement highlighting the legislation. 

"In South Dakota, only girls play girls' sports," the ad says. "Why? Because of Governor Kristi Noem's leadership."

Opponents have condemned the GOP-led bans as discriminatory and dehumanizing toward LGBTQ youth. Many of the bills have faced legal challenges, as could South Dakota's.

More than 85% of transgender and non-binary youth reported that the news of such restrictions have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a survey by the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. 

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