The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday mandating that student athletes can only participate on sports teams compliant with birth certificate sex, effectively banning males who identify as transgender from women’s sports teams.
Although similar bills have failed in the state House before, this one, barring a veto from Republican Governor Greg Abbott, is expected to become law as the state Senate, having passed similar bills earlier this year, is anticipated to approve the bill.
If the bill becomes law, Texas would be the eighth state to add such protections for women’s sports.
The bill, HB 25, passed the state House after a preliminary approval vote of 76-54 and an identical official final vote following 10 hours of debate on the issue. One of the major supporters and authors of the bill, Republican Representative Valoree Swanson, argued on Thursday that passing the bill was a matter of both fairness and recognizing biological differences between men and women.
“Biological males, in addition to having much higher testosterone levels, have many other physiological advantages that girls just cannot overcome,” Swanson said on Thursday.
The bill details that K-12 student athletes at public schools can only participate on sports teams in accordance with the sex on their birth certificate. Importantly, aside from a clerical mistake, the bill does not accept birth certificates if they were changed from someone’s biological sex.
“We all know men and women are built differently. And the results prove the unfairness of forcing our daughters and granddaughters to compete against biological males,” Swanson explained last week, according to KVUE. “To say otherwise doesn’t just reject biology, it denies girls their dignity, self-confidence, and humanity.”
Many Texas Democrats, LGBT activists, and others are upset with the bill, which they claim targets transgender individuals.
“We actually also know that this is a nonissue, that there is no issue with transgender and intersex students playing sports,” said Democrat Mary González, chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus.
The ACLU also weighed in against the legislation.
“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,” said Adri Perez of the Texas branch of the ACLU.
However, proponents of the bill pushed back, saying that it was necessary to protect fair participation in women’s sports.
“Boys can run faster, hit the ball longer if they’re playing softball, hit three-point shots and rebound better. They can beat girls in track and field, as I’ve said, they can run faster. They can beat them in wrestling – that’s already happened in Texas – because they’re strong. It’s just not fair,” Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told KVUE last month.
The bill still needs to pass the state Senate, but proponents are optimistic that the measure will become law this time around.
“We care about Texas girls and we are ready to watch this bill cross the finish line in the Senate. Girls will be protected and able to freely play sports without fear of boys stealing their athletic opportunities in Texas,” said Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values.