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New Texas law restricts transgender students’ participation in school sports

Demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Eric Gay
Associated Press
Demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas.

A new Texas law bars transgender student athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. House Bill 25 is one of several laws that went into effect Tuesday, months after the Texas Legislature approved the measures during a third special legislative session last year.

The controversial measure, championed by Republican leaders in the state, applies to athletic programs sponsored or authorized by a school district or charter school that participate in the University Interscholastic League. According to the bill, a student must compete on sports teams that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate “entered at or near the time of the student’s birth.”

Gov. Greg Abbott added the issue to the third special legislative session agenda amid public pressure from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other fellow Republicans, who argued the law was needed to defend equal athletic opportunities for women under Title IX of federal civil rights legislation.

“The purpose of this Act is to further the governmental interest of ensuring that sufficient interscholastic athletic opportunities remain available for girls to remedy past discrimination on the basis of sex,” reads the bill sponsored by state Rep. Valoree Swanson, a Republican from Spring, Texas.

Opponents of the legislation continue to discount claims the law is needed to protect women’s sports. Jaime Puentes, who is an education and policy analyst with the progressive nonprofit Every Texan, says the measure could actually negatively affect cisgender women and girls.

“There very well are going to be some non-trans girls who might be more muscular or might have what some people might consider more masculine traits [who] are subjected to proving whether or not they are a girl or a boy,” Puentes said.

He added the effect of the law will not only impact the mental health and well-being of transgender students, but also reinforce intolerance toward the transgender community in general.

“By preventing trans kids from playing in interscholastic sports, the state is preventing young cisgendered Texans from learning about their peers. We’re recreating these cycles of discrimination,” Puentes said.

HB 25 allows exceptions for women to compete in men’s interscholastic sports programs, if a corresponding program is not offered or available.

Five other bills are taking effect Tuesday after passing in Texas’ third special legislative session.

House Bill 1, Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 6, codify new political boundaries for Texas House, Texas Senate and congressional district maps redrawn by state lawmakers following the 2020 Census. Multiple lawsuits are challenging the new maps.

Senate Bill 5 makes the unlawful restraint of dogs a criminal offense. The legislation says owners can only tether a dog outside if they have adequate shelter, shade from direct sunlight, and water to drink. The bill also prohibits using chains or weighted restraints on the animals. Gov. Abbott vetoed similar legislation passed during the regular legislative session last year citing concerns of government overreach and excessive punishments for pet owners.

Senate Bill 52 provides funding for a variety of higher education construction projects across the state.

Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, The Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.