Texas House approves bill targeting transgender student athletes after three previous attempts by lawmakers failed

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Texas House on Thursday approved legislation that would restrict the participation of transgender student athletes in school sports, removing a notable hurdle for supporters of the measure after similar legislation was passed by the Senate and blocked in the House three times before. This year.

House Bill 25, drafted by State Representative Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, passed with a vote of 76-54. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, House Speaker Dade Phelan signaled that the House would have enough votes to pass restrictive sports legislation. The bill will now travel to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Under HB 25, public school student-athletes from Kindergarten to Grade 12 would be required to compete in sports teams corresponding to the gender indicated on their birth certificate received at or near the time of their birth. The law distinguishes transgender children who would be prohibited from participating in sports teams corresponding to their gender identity.

The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, already requires that an athlete‘s gender be determined by the sex listed on their birth certificate. Swanson said HB 25 would simply “codify” the existing UIL rules. However, UIL recognizes any legally altered birth certificate. This policy could accommodate a person whose birth certificate may have changed to match their gender identity, which can sometimes be a difficult process.

HB 25 would not allow the recognition of such legally amended birth certificates unless changes were made due to a clerical error. It is not clear, however, how it will be determined whether a birth certificate has been legally altered or not. According to UIL, the process of verifying student birth certificates is left to schools and districts, not UIL.

Transgender advocates and parents of transgender children have argued that HB 25 unfairly targets children who may see sport as a safe haven. And they note that bills such as HB 25 and others that have targeted transgender children this year – like legislation that restricts gender-affirming care – have already taken a mental toll on young people and families.

Supporters of the legislation have said that HB 25 does not completely ban transgender children from participating in school sports, but does require them to play on teams that match their sex assigned at birth.

“It’s about girls and protecting them in our UIL sports,” Swanson said Thursday on House floor.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Swanson, other Republican lawmakers and outside organizations said the measure was necessary so that cisgender girls were not displaced on sports teams by transgender girls. LGBTQ advocates say there has been little evidence in the state of Texas to support this argument.

Democratic representatives on Thursday posed an emphatic and passionate questioning of HB 25, warning of the harmful implications it could have on transgender children if adopted and arguing that it does not address legitimate issues in women’s sport.

State Representative Mary E. González, D-Clint, chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, compared the issue to 2017 legislation that did not become law and would have banned transgender Texans from using public toilets corresponding to their gender identity.

“This is the 3.0 bathroom bill, an invoice that was not needed then and an invoice that is not needed now,” González said.

González proposed an amendment that would theoretically have prevented the bill from entering into force, however, the amendment was rejected 68-46.

“If you care about mental health, and I know you do, then do this simple thing and don’t push this harmful legislation forward.… In fact, we also know that’s okay, that there is no problem with transgender and intersex students playing sports, ”González said.

Representative Ann Johnson, D-Houston, backed González’s attempt to kill Bill, tearfully sharing his own story of becoming gay and begging the House to “vote on their hearts and not on the political risk that may come. to make a very courageous decision. “

Other proposed changes included leaving decisions about student participation in sports teams to local school boards, restricting HB 25 so that it only applies to individual sports and not to athletic sports. team, as well as to apply the legislation only to schools that have a licensed professional counselor on staff. These amendments were not adopted either. Representative Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, who proposed this latest amendment, said lawmakers need to think fully about the mental health impacts the bill could have on children.

“I think if we’re going to pass this law, which we know is going to hurt some kids, we have to have something in place, a support system, to help them,” Goodwin said.

An amendment by Representative Donna Howard, D-Austin, passed 121-8 that would ensure the legislation complies with “federal and state laws regarding the confidentiality of student health information.” Howard’s amendment received explicit support from Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress.

Thursday’s vote came after moving closing statements from lawmakers that followed nearly 10 hours of debate, with many asking their colleagues to rethink the vote for the bill.

“We play games with the people who have represented the state that we claim to love,” said Representative Celia Israel, D-Austin, while recounting how she considered killing herself at 17 for fear of going out. “You are causing more pain tonight. We hope the courts protect us, but the damage has been done.”

Legislation limiting the participation of transgender student athletes in sports was enacted in at least five states this year. A court challenge has already been filed in West Virginia against a new state law that prohibits transgender student athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identities. In July, a judge issued an injunction temporarily preventing the application of the law, according to the Associated Press.

Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said, “Texans will hold lawmakers accountable for their cruelty,” for passing HB 25.

“Banning transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable young people at serious risk of mental and emotional harm,” Perez said.

In June, the US Department of Education released a statement on its interpretation of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funds from discrimination based on sex, from including discrimination based on sex. on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican lawmakers have often cited Title IX as the reason for HB 25 and for championing equality in women’s sports, but opponents of the bill said it did not realize the full extent of who Title IX is. supposed to protect.

This story comes from our partners ABC13 at the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan media organization that educates – and engages with – Texans about public policy, politics, government and issues at scale. of State.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved.


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