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The legislative session isn’t even over yet, but some Texas Republicans want Gov. Gregg Abbott to call a special session of the legislatures in June to pass a host of conservative priorities that failed to pass, including a ban on transgender athletes.
Given that this year’s legislative ends on Monday, the sports ban, known also as Senate Bill 29, had to pass the House of Representatives by midnight Wednesday. But Democrats employed several stalling tactics to avoid debating bills they opposed — giving transgender teens at least a temporary respite from an onslaught of attacks by Texas Republicans.
Republicans, who have prioritized several bills targeting the transgender community this year, including a transgender sports ban, have vowed to bring the issue back up again. They could choose to employ procedural tactics to revive measures that failed to pass before the session adjourns on Monday, reports the Houston Chronicle.
Lawmakers could also bring up a ban in the fall, when the legislature is already scheduled to meet to carry out the decennial redistricting process — even though the ban would have no relation to redistricting. Or, they could pressure Abbott, who supports a ban in order to “protect” women’s sports, into calling a special session in June — at taxpayer expense, of course — to push through the ban and several other pieces of controversial legislation that failed to pass both chambers in time to be sent to Abbott’s desk to be signed into law.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who successfully shepherded the bill through the much more reactionary GOP-led Senate, has already demanded that Abbott call a June session, waiting barely nine hours after the clock struck midnight on Wednesday. Other bills that he has sought to pass include a measure to prevent local governments from using public money to fund lobbyists, and another prohibiting social media companies from blocking users for their political views.
Earlier this session, lawmakers passed several other conservative bills, including a measure to fine professional sports teams that do not play the national anthem before games held in Texas, require schools to hang up signs reading “In God We Trust” in a “conspicuous place” if someone donates such a sign, a bill allowing people to openly carry guns in public without needing a permit, and a bill that would prohibit abortions after the time when a fetus begins to develop a heartbeat.
After the transgender athlete bill failed to pass the House on Wednesday, opponents celebrated the measure’s defeat, although they warned that Republicans could try to force through the ban via last-minute amendments to unrelated bills.
The University Interscholastic League of Texas already bans students from competing on sports teams that don’t match the sex listed on their original birth certificate, although the league offers exemptions — albeit rarely — to students who have the gender marker on the birth certificate changed.
The bill — and similar measures like it in other states — has been opposed by the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports, which has warned lawmakers that they risk losing the chance to host athletic events if the NCAA deems that the state cannot provide a safe and welcoming environment to all athletes and spectators, including LGBTQ individuals. Nonetheless, seven states have either passed their own bills or issued executive orders restricting transgender individuals’ ability to compete in sports.
Earlier this month, when Senate Bill 29 seemed destined to fail to receive the requisite number of votes to move out of a House committee, many people thought the measure had been killed. But then, State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) helped revive the bill in order to punish a handful of his fellow Democrats for defeating an unrelated bill that would allow state authorities to take over the Houston Independent School District, ostensibly to “improve” educational standards.
Some Republicans were so frantic to pass the bill that State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) claimed on Twitter that Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) offered to save one of the bills Canales sponsored from being killed in exchange for helping push through the transgender sports ban.
“My answer: Kill my bill, bigot!” Canales tweeted on Tuesday before the legislative deadline.
While Republicans frame Senate Bill 29 as a matter of fairness for female athletes, Democrats argue it simply singles out transgender children for harm, requiring them to either deny their gender identity or forego participating in athletics. Opponents of the bill also note that, according to a poll conducted by The Trevor Project this year, 94% of LGBTQ young people reported that recent political developments had harmed their mental health.
Angie Castro, a mother of a transgender daughter from Mansfield, Texas, said during a virtual news conference that bills targeting transgender children, such as the proposed sports ban and several bills seeking to ban gender-affirming care — including one that would label parents who support their children’s transition “child abusers” — left her exhausted and “heartbroken.”
“They continuously attack our children without any reason,” Castro said. “They have the right to be here. They have the right to be treated like everyone else and have the same respect.”
Two top LGBTQ advocacy organizations have launched a campaign to celebrate transgender athletes while raising money to combat the proliferation of anti-transgender sports bans being enacted in various states throughout the country.
The "Stack the Deck Against Hate" campaign, a joint project of Lambda Legal and Athlete Ally, is creating 1,000 limited-edition decks of trading cards featuring four transgender athletes: Mack Beggs, a two-time state wrestling champion in Texas and one of the transgender athletes spotlighted in Hulu's Changing the Game documentary; Fallon Fox, the first openly trans professional mixed martial artist; Patricio "Pat" Manuel, the first male transgender boxer in U.S. history and five-time national amateur boxing champion; and Grace Siobahn McKenzie, a player for the Golden Gate Women's Rugby Football Club. Each card features information about the personal stories of the trans athletes featured in the deck.
A federal court has blocked Arkansas state officials from enforcing a law that would have prohibited health care professionals from providing gender-affirming treatments to transgender youth, or even referring them to other practitioners providing those treatments.
The law, set to go into effect on July 28, was passed by Republican lawmakers over the objection of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who vetoed the bill over concerns that it was too broad and infringed on parental rights.
In addition to banning transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers or hormones, the bill also bars Medicaid and private insurers from covering treatments for minors, and allows health insurers to refuse to provide coverage for any transition-related care, regardless of the patient's age.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has promised to bring up a number of priorities embraced by social conservatives in a special session of the Texas legislature, including several bills dealing with hot-button issues such as a ban on transgender athletes.
On Wednesday, Abbott placed several items on the agenda, such as an "election integrity" bill designed to place more restrictions on when and how Texans can vote; a measure restricting what public school teachers can say about "critical race theory"; a ban on social media censorship of conservative viewpoints, allowing those banned from platforms to bring legal action against platforms; a bill seeking to prohibit people from providing abortion-inducing drugs via mail or delivery service; and a bill prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.
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