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Texas Senate approves restrictions on transgender college athletes

Demonstrators hold signs in support of transgender youth outside the Texas Capitol on March 1 in response to proposed legal action against parents seeking gender-affirming health care.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Demonstrators hold signs in support of transgender youth outside the Capitol.

Texas senators on Tuesday approved a bill that would prohibit college athletes who are transgender from participating in the sports teams that match their gender identity.

The bill is part of a slew of measures that target people in the LGBTQ+ community.

Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, pushed back against those who have criticized him for Senate Bill 15. He said his measure was about “fairness.”

"We hope every woman in this great state has a fair opportunity at athletic achievement and this bill protects that opportunity,” Middleton said.

The measure was passed by the Senate 19-9. The measure will have to clear a final procedural vote on Wednesday before it’s sent to the Texas House for consideration.

During the debate, Middleton was asked why pushing for a ban instead of letting the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA, address the issue.

Middleton said he didn’t want to defer the decision.

“The time for fairness is right now,” Middleton said. “I’m also not convinced the NCAA is going to do anything about this.”

In 2021, during a special session, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that requires transgender K-12 athletes to compete in the sports team that matches their sex assigned at birth.

Middleton said the measure would "finish the equation."

Middleton’s measure is also one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities.

Republicans in this legislative session have focused on bills that target gender-affirming care for minors, drag performances, and school books that talk about gender and sexuality.

The measures have received significant pushback from the public, including LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, who say they are discriminatory toward transgender people.

Johnathan Gooch, the communications director at the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas, told The Texas Newsroom Tuesday the measure is part of a slew of “hateful bills” being pushed by Texas Republican lawmakers.

“All Texans deserve a right to a healthy life,” Gooch said. “It’s disappointing to see the Senate cutting the lives of trans people one piece at a time.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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