The Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives has given final approval to a bill that would bar transgender students from competing on sports teams matching their gender identity.
The House had originally passed the bill on a largely party-line vote on Thursday, followed by the Republican-led Senate, which added amendments to the bill. The House then approved the changes made by the Senate, sending the bill to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is expected to sign it into law.
Under guidelines set forth by the University Interscholastic League, which oversees K-12 public school sports in the state, trans students cannot compete on teams reflecting their gender identity unless they submit a birth certificate with an amended or corrected gender marker.
HB 25 and its Senate counterpart SB 3, which passed last month despite being condemned by the state’s business leaders, would eliminate that exception to the rule, making team membership dependent on a student athlete’s assigned sex at birth.
“The Texas House just voted to discriminate against trans kids and exclude them from playing sports as their authentic selves,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas tweeted on Thursday, adding that the fight against the bill was not over.
HB 25 mainly focuses on preventing trans girls from playing on girls’ teams, though Republican lawmakers admitted during the debate, before the bill passed 76-54, that they don’t know how many student athletes in Texas identify as trans. Additionally, Democrats have argued that no complaints about specific trans athletes have been filed with the interscholastic league.
“This is a non-issue,” Democratic state representative Mary González, who chairs the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, said on the House floor. “We don’t need this bill; in fact, we should be doing the opposite. If you care about mental health, and I know you do, then do this simple thing and not advance this piece of harmful legislation.”
Adri Perez, a strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, told the Texas Tribune that “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.”
The Trevor Project has noted that from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30 of this year, the organization received nearly 10,800 crisis contacts in the form of telephone calls, texts or chats from LGBTQ youth in the state, marking a 150% increase over the previous year.
On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign tweeted that “instead of protecting trans kids, Texas lawmakers have chosen to exclude them.”
They added: “We will not stop fighting for trans kids.”
Since 2018, support for trans students being allowed to participate in high school athletes has decreased across the political spectrum, though with partisan gaps. This year, bills similar to the Texas bills have been signed into law in at least five U.S. states, with more than 130 anti-trans bills having been introduced nationwide.
HB 25 is just one of nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced this year — an all-time high since LGBTQ activists began tracking such statistics.
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