AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas is poised to become the latest and most populous state to tighten restrictions on transgender athletes in public high school sports.
State lawmakers on Sunday approved a measure that requires transgender athletes to play on teams that align with the gender listed on their original birth certificate, not their current gender identity. The bill pushed by the Legislature's Republican majority now goes to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.
Texas would join at least five other states that have passed similar measures in recent months and the bill may yet face legal challenges.
Activists for transgender athletes and LGBTQ issues have called the bill mean-spirited and discriminatory.
“This cruel and grotesque ban puts a target on the backs of transgender children and adults, erases intersex people and sends a clear message that transgender and intersex people aren’t welcome or safe in Texas,” said Ricardo Martinez, chief executive officer of Equality Texas.
But supporters of the bill said it is needed to protect girls from athletes who might be bigger, faster and stronger.
“We have the opportunity today to stand up for our daughters, our granddaughters and all our Texas girls,” Republican state Rep. Valoree Swanson said before the bill passed the state house last week.
Texas already had a similar rule enforced by the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body for public school sports and the nearly 850,000 athletes who participate. But that rule makes exceptions if a birth certificate is later changed to reflect a current gender identity. The new measure eliminates that exception, but the process for how schools will check original certificates has been left unclear.
UIL officials have said that checking participation eligibility is left up to schools and local school districts, and the agency does not track the number of transgender athletes.