In their third special session, the Texas legislature passed a bill that would protect girls and women from being forced to compete against biological males in athletics.
After nearly ten hours of debate, House Bill 25 passed mostly along party lines, 76-54, on October 14. It went to the Senate the next day where it passed 19-12. The bill went back to the House and was approved a final time 76-61. The third special session ended Monday.
This marks the fourth time this year the Texas legislature has tried to pass a measure protecting females playing athletics. Legislation protecting females in sports had passed in the Texas Senate but failed in the House three previous times, once in the regular session and twice in special sessions. Governor Greg Abbott has said he will sign the bill.
HB 25 ensures that biological girls will compete only against other biological girls with one exception: The bill would allow biological girls to play on a boys sports team if there isn't a girls team for that sport and the University Interscholastic League (UIL) allows it. House Bill 25 also does not allow transgender students to join teams with recent birth certificate changes as proof of gender. The gender on the birth certificate must have been entered "at or near the time of the student 's birth."
The author of the bill, state Rep. Valoree Swanson,(R-Spring), prioritized this in the second special session. "[House Bill 25] protects girls' safety and their right to equal access to athletic opportunities," Swanson said. "Courts have found that the state has a legitimate interest in redressing past discrimination against girls in sports and protecting their equal access to athletic opportunities."
Democrat lawmakers argued against the bill, saying there hadn't been any such recorded cases of transgender boys on girls teams causing conflict or resulting in girls' loss of scholarship opportunities—a common argument for bills like this among conservatives. However, the UIL did testify in last week's committee hearing that one school district in Dallas is navigating what to do with two student athletes currently changing their birth certificates to match their "new" identity.
State Rep. James White (R-Hillister), suggested that was proof enough that the issue will continue to expand to other school districts. "The UIL has stated they are getting more inquiries from their member schools. People say this is not necessary on and on and on and on. This is already a practice in UIL right now, that to determine your eligibility in a sport, we look at your birth certificate to determine your sex. That's already in there," White said. "You have cases coming up through courts, phone calls into UIL, that's where it's important for the legislature to step in and have the appropriate statutes in place to make sure everyone knows the rules of the game so to speak.
When State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), argued for the passage of the Senate's version of the bill during a recent public hearing he said, "What if a boy decided that day he was a girl, just to get a nefarious advantage?" While this might sound far-fetched, there are documented cases in Connecticut of biological males claiming transgender status and besting star, female track athletes, just in time for college scholarship scouts to observe their athleticism.
Some of the Texas press has capitalized on this controversial legislature and regularly features families with transgender children showcasing how legislation like this could keep their transgender children from sports. "It just keeps on happening: Texas parents fight legislation targeting their trans children for the fourth time this year," a recent Texas Tribune headline read.
Rather than acknowledge how transgender boys could make competition unfair to girls due to their biological advantages, some media fixates on how bills like this prohibit transgender boys from doing what they want. "The Texas Senate has passed a bill restricting transgender youth from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity four separate times in 2021," the subhead reads.
However, legislation designed to protect females as they play sports is not uncommon nor unpopular, save for among a small, vocal crowd. So far in 2021, 37 states have introduced similar legislation; eight states have legislation on the books. A 2020 poll shows that nearly 75 percent of American voters support protecting females in sports competitions from being forced to play against biological males. After Gov. Abbott signs the bill, Texas will be the tenth state with a provision protecting female sports.