Texas revives bill banning trans kids from playing on the sports team of their gender

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The Texas Legislature is considering bills banning trans student athletes from sports teams.

On Monday, during a special session of the Texas Legislature called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the state Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a hearing on two bills that would ban trans athletes from playing on the teams of their gender in public schools and in colleges and universities.

Senate Bill 29, a bill proposing such bans, authored by Texas state Sen. Charles Perry (R), died after the clock ran out on considering the legislation on May 25, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Texas Democrats used procedural actions to prevent a vote on the bill; many of them held trans flags as the measure died.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) tweeted the following day that he would ask the governor to revive S.B. 29 during a special session called by Abbott to tackle several other issues the GOP has prioritized this year, including bills on restricting voting access and on "critical race theory." He also said the legislature should "consider and act upon" a bill "identical to Senate Bill 29. The University Interscholastic League is in charge of the state's public school sports rules.

Under consideration by the Health and Human Services Committee were two bills aimed at banning transgender athletes from the sports teams of their gender, S.B. 32 and S.B. 2. Also authored by Perry, S.B. 32 would apply to K-12 schools, while S.B. 2 would cover both those schools and colleges and universities.

Under these bills, sex would be determined according to the gender marker initially placed on an athlete's birth certificate. The only exceptions to this requirement would be if the sex marked at birth was a clerical error or if the birth certificate is "unobtainable." Then the student would have to provide another form of government record to prove that they are allowed to play on the sports team.

Both bills contain a clause stating, "An interscholastic athletic team ... may allow a female student to compete in an interscholastic athletic competition that is designated for male students if a corresponding interscholastic athletic competition designated for female students is not offered or available."

During the hearing, Perry said that the bill specifies that the birth certificate accepted as proof of sex must have been issued at or near the time of birth to prevent the use of one that has been altered later with a different marker. Jamey Harrison, deputy director of the University Interscholastic League, which regulates the state's public school sports programs, agreed with Perry's assessment that the bill would exclude kids who have changed the gender markers on their birth certificates.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, although Texas does issue new birth certificates to reflect gender marker changes, its laws don't contain specific provisions covering them, and not all judges or counties will issue the court orders required to have them made.

During the session, Perry posed numerous hypotheticals situations he said could happen if the Legislature did not pass his bill.

"Would you see as things are beginning to progress, would you see a possibility of a future without women's biological teams surviving because of the pressures to compete, the pressures to win, the metrics that we judge and guide our coaching staffs from? The money at some levels would be big enough that they would be willing to accept a 10-member transitioned, biological males transitioning, replacing what we are used to female, biological female teams?" he asked Harrison.

Harrison didn't respond with a clear "yes" or "no" to Perry's question but said that he believed more school-aged children were changing the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Texas state Sen. John Whitmore (D) said that it seemed as if some if his colleagues believed people decided to be transgender to win games, which he called "ludicrous."

Whitmore said to Harrison, "I really think the facts are, it's a very small community, and then if you look at the number of school-aged children, it would be even much smaller, and they're minding their own business, raising their families, and just want to be left alone."

He added, "I would hope that as you go forward, that you would balance the social, mental, psychological needs of our students as well as athletic needs."

Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, told the American Independent Foundation that bills such as those being considered in the Texas Legislature foment anti-trans harassment in Texas. He said his organization has recently seen a marked increase in reports of bullying at schools.

"When people reach out to us in crisis, for emergency situations that are playing out directly in schools or in our communities, it's completely related to the dehumanization of trans people, and that has been done by lawmakers," Martinez said.

The Human Rights Campaign noted in May that seven states had enacted trans sports bans this year, including West Virginia, Mississippi, and Florida. Since then, LGBTQ and civil rights groups have challenged those laws.

In June, the Human Rights Campaign filed a lawsuit over Florida's legislation prohibiting transgender girls from playing on the team of their gender, and the organization has said it plans to file lawsuits over similar laws in other states.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued West Virginia in May over its anti-trans sports ban law.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.