Texas Senate passes bill barring transgender students from sports matching their gender identity

Texas Politics

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides over the Texas Senate on March 15, 2021. (Texas Senate media)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Senate approved a bill Thursday that would ban transgender students from competing on their public school’s sports teams that correspond to their gender identity.

Sixteen Republican lawmakers wrote Senate Bill 29, which states a student cannot participate in an athletic activity “that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth and correctly stated on the student’s official birth certificate.”

The bill would also require students to show their original, unchanged birth certificate to prove their “biological sex.”

The measure now heads to the Texas House of Representatives, which is currently considering its own version of the same bill. According to the latest update posted online about House Bill 4042, it’s been referred to the House public education committee.

The Senate’s approval came after extensive, coordinated pushback from Democrats, LGBTQ activists and other civil rights organizations. Equality Texas and The Transgender Education Network of Texas held a rally Wednesday at the Texas Capitol where dozens voiced opposition to a slate of bills that they say target LGBTQ youth and their health.

The bill’s supporters have previously said this kind of measure would promote fairness and reduce the risk of injury among student-athletes. Critics have stated this legislation seems to be a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.

The bill’s approval in Texas’ upper chamber comes amid a push by conservative lawmakers across the country to pursue restrictions on transgender students. State legislators in Arkansas most recently overrode the governor’s veto of a law that now makes the state the first to ban gender confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth.

Such actions prompted a warning shot from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) about the fallout these bills could cause. The NCAA’s Board of Governors released a statement on April 12 saying they support transgender student-athletes, adding that how states treat them may factor into where they choose to hold college championships.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the statement read. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick addressed the NCAA in a statement Thursday applauding the approval of Senate Bill 29, which he dubbed the Fair Sports for Women and Girls Act.

“It is notable that in the same week that the NCAA threatened states that don’t open women’s
sports to men, the Texas Senate took a principled stand in support of women and girls’ high
school and middle school sports,” Patrick said. “Senate Bill 29 ensures that biologically born men and boys will not be allowed to compete against women and girls in individual and team sports or for sports scholarships.”

Texas Rising Action, a youth-organizing group, condemned the Senate’s approval of the bill Thursday.

“Senate Bill 29 is cruel, plain and simple. Transgender youth already experience discrimination, harassment and violence because of their gender identity. This legislation makes that problem worse,” said Rae Martinez, the group’s senior director. “Instead of focusing on fixing our crumbling energy grid or building our economy back better after the devastating effects of COVID-19, Dan Patrick’s Senate is obsessed with stigmatizing and shaming transgender kids and passing discriminatory legislation just like their failed bathroom bill in the last two sessions.

Earlier this week, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs heard testimony for and against Senate Bill 1646, which would criminalize providing or assisting a young person with gender-affirming health care as child abuse.

Kai Shappley, a transgender fourth grader, joined dozens of others to urge the lawmakers to drop this particular bill.

“I do not like spending my free time asking adults to make good choices,” Shappley said during her remarks. “I have been having to explain myself since I was three four years old. Texas legislators have been attacking me since pre-K. I am in fourth grade now. When it comes to bill targeting trans youth, I immediately feel angry. It’s been very scary and overwhelming. It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist. God made me. God loves me for who I am, and God does not make mistakes.”

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