Both houses of the Texas legislature have passed a bill barring transgender students in public schools from participating on the sports teams comporting with their gender identity, and Gov. Greg Abbott, a far-right Republican, is likely to sign it into law.
The Texas House of Representatives Thursday passed House Bill 25 by a vote of 76-54, The Texas Tribune reports. The Senate approved the bill 19-12 Friday, and the House OK'd the Senate's amendments Sunday, according to the Tribune. Its passage came in the third special session of the legislature this year.
It represents a major victory for supporters of the legislation, which had failed to pass the House three times earlier, once in regular session and twice in special sessions, the Tribune notes. It had passed the Senate easily each time. Abbott had said earlier that he intended to sign it.
State Rep. Valoree Swanson, the Republican who authored the bill, said it would only codify the policy already followed by the University Interscholastic League, which regulates public school sports in Texas. HB 25 says students must compete under the gender listed on their birth certificate at or near the time of birth. But the league accepts legally modified birth certificates, which trans people sometimes obtain although the process is difficult. Under HB 25, those certificates would not be accepted unless the modification was due to a clerical error.
The bill's supporters made the usual argument that it was necessary to protect cisgender girls from supposedly unfair competition from trans girls -- an argument that supporters of LGBTQ+ rights dispute. "This is all about girls and protecting them in our UIL sports," Swanson said on the House floor Thursday, according to the Tribune.
LGBTQ+ rights advocates decried the legislation. "This is bathroom bill 3.0, a bill that was not needed then and a bill that is not needed now," said Rep. Mary E. Gonzalez, chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, referring to an anti-trans bill that failed in 2017. "We actually also know that this is a nonissue, that there is no issue with transgender and intersex students playing sports," she added.
The bill is part of a rash of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposed in states across the nation this year, including much specifically anti-trans legislations. In 2021, seven states have passed laws barring trans students from competing on public school teams under their gender identity: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia (some of the laws apply to public colleges and universities as well), and South Dakota's governor has issued executive orders to this effect. Idaho passed a similar law last year; its law and West Virginia's have been blocked by courts while challenges are heard. The governors of Louisiana, Kansas, and North Dakota have vetoed such bills.
Civil rights organizations quickly issued statements against the Texas bill. "Texas lawmakers voted today to deliberately discriminate against transgender children, said Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. "Excluding transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable youth at serious risk of mental and emotional harm.
"There is no evidence that transgender kids pose any threat. It is indefensible that legislators would force transgender youth and their families to travel to Austin to defend their own humanity, then blatantly ignore hours of testimony about the real damage this bill causes. Trans kids and their families deserve our love and support -- they've been fighting this legislation for months. Texans will hold lawmakers accountable for their cruelty."
Human Rights Campaign Texas State Director Rebecca Marques added, "Texas legislators seem to take pride in passing discriminatory bills without any concern for the impact on Texans and the state's growing negative national reputation. This legislation and the debate around it have already had a negative real-life impact on transgender youth, impacting mental health and perpetuating negative stereotypes and discrimination against them. Transgender young people deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends like any kid. Texas legislators are putting the second-largest LGBTQ+ population in the country at significant health and safety risk.
"Radical policies like the anti-transgender sports ban bill that target children for no reason other than to score political points, making the state less safe and desirable for families to live and work, putting businesses in the state at a competitive disadvantage. Rather than focusing on urgent needs for Texans like fixing the fragile, failing electrical grid during three special sessions, the legislature was hellbent on advancing a discriminatory and harmful agenda just to appease their primary base."