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A bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing on college teams that match their gender identity is headed for approval by Gov. Greg Abbott.
On Friday, the Senate approved minor changes the House made to House Bill 15 before sending it to the governor, who has already said he would support such legislation.
In the Senate, Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Mace Middleton, R-Galveston, clarified that the bill only applies to intercollegiate sports between schools, not intramural sports that are more casual and often practiced together. . The vote was 19-12.
During the legislative session, LGBTQ advocates railed against the law.
“SB 15 is yet another invasive, impractical measure enacted by the Texas Legislature to ‘fix’ a problem that doesn’t exist,” Melody Gutierrez, director of the Texas Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release earlier this month. “Every student deserves the same chance to practice sportsmanship, self-discipline and teamwork, as well as to build a sense of belonging with their peers.” We should not discriminate or ban any student from playing because they are transgender.
Senate Bill 15 requires athletes to join college sports teams that match their sex assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity. It provides whistleblower protections for people who report violations at a university’s athletic program and allows people to file civil lawsuits against a college or university if they believe the institution has violated the law.
Under the law, women would be allowed to join a men’s sports team if the school does not have a women’s team for the same sport.
The bill is one of several bills being considered by the Legislature this session that could bring major changes to the lives of gay and transgender Texans. But it’s unclear what immediate impact the bill would have on Texas public universities. According to an Austin American-Statesman survey of public universities in Texas, the vast majority of Texas schools responded that, to their knowledge, they had not had a transgender athlete compete for their university.
For more than a decade, the NCAA allowed transgender women to participate in women’s sports if they had at least one year of testosterone-suppressing medication to treat gender dysphoria. But last year, the conference’s board of governors adopted a new policy that determined trans athletes’ eligibility for participation on a sport-by-sport basis. LGBTQ advocates condemned the change as the conference bowed to political pressure from those who disapproved of the organization’s decision to allow Leah Thomas, a trans woman, to compete on the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania.
The new NCAA policy is still in effect. As of now, trans athletes who want to play college sports must meet previous policy requirements set in 2010 and report testosterone levels at the start of the season and six months into competition.
Legal experts say the Texas law could open up universities to Title IX lawsuits. In 2021, the Biden administration said the law, which was created more than 50 years ago to ban discrimination based on gender, applied to LGBTQ students. Last month, the administration proposed an amendment to Title IKS that would prohibit blanket bans on transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
The proposal has drawn mixed criticism from LGBTQ advocacy groups who say it would still allow discrimination against trans students, while critics say it would threaten women’s sports.
“[T]The department’s proposed regulation would attempt to enforce compliance with an uncertain, fluid, and entirely subjective standard that is based on a highly politicized gender ideology,” 25 Republican governors, including Abbott, wrote in a joint comment. “Most worrying is that the proposed regulation would reverse the purpose of the IKS title and jeopardize the many achievements of women in athletics.”
Last month, the US House of Representatives approved a bill that would amend Title IX to require student-athletes to participate on sports teams based on their assigned gender at birth. The bill is unlikely to pass the US Senate, where Democrats have narrow control.
Disclosure: The Human Rights Campaign has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in Tribune journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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