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Gov. Greg Abbott says he supports legislation banning transgender college athletes

Gov. Greg Abbott shakes hands with members on the House floor on the first day of the 2023 Legislature on Jan 10.
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott shakes hands with members on the House floor on the first day of the 2023 Legislature on Jan 10.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday that he would back legislation banning transgender student athletes from competing on a collegiate level on teams that match their gender.

“This next session, we will pass a law prohibiting biological men to compete against women in college sports,” Abbott said at the Young America’s Foundation Freedom conference in Dallas. He made the comments during an interview billed as a “fireside chat” with former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

State lawmakers passed legislation in 2021 that restricted transgender student athletes from playing on K-12 school sports teams that align with their gender. But Abbott has previously demurred extending such restrictions to college athletes. When asked at a Kingwood Tea Party event in October 2021 if he would implement limitations on transgender college athletes, Abbott did not directly answer the question.

Republican lawmakers have already filed two bills — Senate Bill 649 and House Bill 23 — this legislative session that would target transgender students’ sports participation at colleges and universities.

The bills restricting transgender college athletes could open the door to a political fight. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors, which oversees the main governing body for college sports, has long prioritized the inclusion of transgender student athletes in its competitions. At least 20 Texas universities compete in NCAA competitions, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University and Texas A&M University.

In 2021, the NCAA board announced it will only hold championships in which transgender student athletes can participate without discrimination.

The NCAA’s participation policies currently require transgender student athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sports’ championship selections.

The 2021 legislation around K-12 sports prompted amendments to rules from the University Interscholastic League, which governs primary and secondary school sports in Texas. The UIL had previously accepted legally modified birth certificates in which someone may have had their sex changed to align with their gender.

In recent sessions, Republican lawmakers have targeted transgender people as a means to shore up appeal among social conservatives, beginning with the 2017 special legislative session, when they made an unsuccessful play to limit transgender people from using public and school bathrooms that aligned with their gender. This session, conservatives are also trying to criminalize types of gender-affirming care for minors and restrict lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.

From The Texas Tribune

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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