Texas Senate Panel Advances Bills Limiting the School Sports Teams That Transgender Athletes Can Join
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A Senate committee has advanced a bill that aims to restrict the participation of transgender students in school sports. This comes after a similar bill failed to pass during the regular session. Due to the absence of Democratic members, who had fled the state to oppose GOP-backed voting restrictions legislation, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which consisted of six Republicans, held a public hearing on the proposed bills during the ongoing special legislative session. Governor Greg Abbott included this issue in the session’s agenda.
Senator Charles Perry, who authored Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 32 and serves as the vice chair of the committee, argued that these bills would protect the rights of cisgender women to compete in their chosen sports. According to these bills, student athletes would be required to participate in sports teams that align with their biological sex assigned at birth or stated on their official birth certificate. SB 32 would affect sports in K-12 public schools, while SB 2 would cover both K-12 and public colleges and universities.
Perry emphasized that the purpose of these bills is to prevent one person’s dreams from being sacrificed for the benefit of another. He stated that transgender boys and men could potentially deprive cisgender girls and women of opportunities in sports.
Opponents of the bill, including advocates for transgender athletes, argued that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that transgender athletes are dominating women’s sports. Maddox Hilgers, a nonbinary graduate student at the University of Houston, pleaded with the committee to stop the legislation, stating that the notion of transgender athletes taking over women’s sports is unfounded due to the limited number of transgender girls in sports.
The University Interscholastic League of Texas, which governs high school athletics in Texas, currently determines a student’s gender based on their birth certificate. However, the UIL does recognize changes made to a student’s birth certificate, such as updating the gender to align with their gender identity. Senate bills 2 and 32 would prohibit this recognition.
During the regular legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick prioritized similar legislation, resulting in Senate Bill 29 passing the Senate. However, the bill ultimately failed to meet the deadline for passage in the House.
Cassie Villela, a parent of a transgender child from San Antonio, spoke out against the sports bills during Monday’s hearing. Villela, who had previously testified before the Legislature during the regular session, expressed the difficulties her 7-year-old transgender daughter already faces and the additional challenges created by having to justify her existence to the Texas Legislature.
Villela criticized the legislators for not understanding the lived experiences and realities of transgender individuals. She had visited the Capitol multiple times during the regular session to share her perspective on bills affecting transgender youth.
Allyson Waller is a reporter at The Texas Tribune, an independent and member-supported news organization that focuses on public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues in Texas.
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