The state of South Dakota is denying that it canceled a contract with a community health organization that works with the transgender community because of political damage to Gov. Kristi Noem.
In its response to the lawsuit filed by The Transformation Project, the state demands a jury trial and denies that the Sioux Falls nonprofit is a member of a protected class under federal law.
“Defendants specifically deny that the agreement was terminated without cause, in violation of state or federal law, or for reasons that were a pretext for discrimination,” says the state’s answer to Transformation Project’s complaint.
The Transformation Project was one of many health care organizations in the state to receive funding through the Community Health Worker Program. The funds originated from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and were administered by the South Dakota Department of Health.
The department signed a contract with The Transformation Project in September for about $136,000. The organization serves the transgender community, and the money was used in part to hire a transgender community health worker, according to the group’s complaint.
Contract with transgender advocacy group canceled Dec. 16
But the contract was abruptly canceled on Dec. 16. The lawsuit alleges that happened after The Daily Signal, an online conservative media group, contacted the state about the contract as well as an upcoming Gender Identity Summit hosted by Sanford Health.
Previously, Noem had taken heavy criticism from the political right, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, when she failed to sign a bill that would have stopped biological males from participating in women’s sports.
Noem provided a statement to The Daily Signal that said the state doesn’t support The Transformation Project and that it should not be participating with the group.
“South Dakota’s decision to cancel the contract was based purely on national politics,” the group’s complaint alleges. “The state knew about and initially supported TTP’s mission; in fact, the state told TTP to request more money than it originally sought. The contract was only terminated after a conservative national media outlet contacted state officials.”
The state issued a letter to the group on Friday, Dec. 16 alleging 10 contract violations as justification for terminating the contract. The following Monday, Secretary of Health Joan Adam announced her retirement.
The lawsuit names both Noem and current Secretary of Health Melissa Magstadt as defendants, as well as the state.