Texas Senate Passes Bill Restricting Transgender Athlete Participation in College Sports
On March 29, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 15, which seeks to enforce limitations on transgender athletes’ participation in college sports. Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston filed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which compels college athletes to compete on teams based on the gender they were assigned at birth. The bill aims to prevent transgender women from joining women’s sports teams and transgender men from joining men’s teams.
According to lawmakers, if signed into law, the legislation would increase fairness in college sports. A similar bill, House Bill 25, was enacted into law earlier this year, making identical rules for K-12 sports.
The Senate approved SB 15 with a 19-12 vote, and it now proceeds to the Texas House. Support for similar legislation among Republican lawmakers in the House is visible. Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, co-signed HB 23, which has gotten the nod from more than half of the House’s 150 members. Nevertheless, it has not yet arrived at the House floor and is currently in the House Committee on State Affairs.
LGBTQ+ activists, however, believe the law discriminates against transgender athletes rather than leveling the playing field. Ash Hall, the policy and advocacy strategist on LGBTQ+ rights for the ACLU of Texas, argued that transgender women do not have an unfair biological advantage over their opponents and teammates, given the hormone therapy they take.
The bill is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, who support the implementation of such legislation, but it is not universally agreed upon. Critics like Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, argue that trans athletes in collegiate competitions are rare and that the NCAA has shown the expertise to even the playing field on a case-by-case basis. Eckhardt added that the SB 15 is perpetuating the stigma and further stigmatizing an already bullied segment of young Texans.
Hall also claims that the legislation is part of a coordinated national campaign targeting transgender people for the benefit of select organizations and politicians. The hope is that Texans will protest against SB 15 in defense of their neighbors, irrespective of how they identify.
The future of the bill is uncertain, but its impact on Texas’ transgender students could be significant if signed into law.