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Bill advances to require transgender student athletes play sports based on sex assigned at birth

State lawmakers listened as the public weighed in on a bill to require transgender student athletes to play sports based on their sex assigned at birth.

AUSTIN, Texas — A bill that would require transgender student-athletes to play sports based on their sex assigned at birth passed out of a Texas House committee on Wednesday. It can now go to the full House for a vote.

State lawmakers listened as the public weighed in during a hearing on the bill. 

House Bill 25, a bill supporters say is needed to protect women's sports, was up for discussion on Wednesday. 

"We all know men and women are built differently. And the results prove the unfairness of forcing our daughters and granddaughters to compete against biological males," said Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring). "To say otherwise doesn't just reject biology, it denies girls their dignity, self-confidence and humanity."

HB25 requires public school students to play on sports teams that match the sex on their birth certificate, with an exception for girls who want to play a sport that doesn't have a girls team, like football.

The legislation has passed in the Senate all four times lawmakers met this year but has always died in the House. Last time lawmakers heard the bill, it got stuck in the education committee. This time, Speaker Dade Phelan sent the bill to a different committee, one on constitutional rights and remedies.

Swanson, the bill's author, made a significant change this time around. The team will have to match the sex assigned at or near birth.

"Which is a necessary change because from 2018-2019, there was a 3,800% increase in non-clerical sex amendments on minor's birth certificates in Texas," Swanson said. 

However that statistic was challenged by the El Paso Democratic representative, Joe Moody.

"My understanding, the raw numbers in the state, that really reflects 80 people," said Moody. "We can throw percentages around. Find the data, I want to make sure when you come back and close to get that. Because that can sound like a large number when you use a percentage, but when you look at raw numbers, it can give us a clearer picture."

Moody continued to critique the bill during his questioning, saying this bill would just cause more problems instead of preventing them.

"I'll tell you a problem that exists now, which is the ostracizing of transgender youth, and the data is startling when it comes to their suicide rates," said Moody. "So that is real data, real problem that I'm not seeing somewhere in the future. It's going to increase with efforts like this and just the fact that we're having this hearing."

Wednesday morning, several groups gathered at the Texas Capitol Wednesday morning to protest the legislation.

The Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas, the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and Texas Freedom Network hosted the rally on the south steps of the capitol to bring attention to the transgender and nonbinary students across the state they say will be negatively impacted by the bill.

According to the groups, 4,000 transgender and nonbinary students in Texas have reached out to crisis call centers this year, many stating that they are feeling stressed and have considered suicide or self-harm due to the anti-trans laws that have been under debate.    

"Since the session began, we have learned of incident after incident where transgender kids and adults are attacked verbally, physically and sometimes fatally for simply being themselves," said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas. "The relentless effort by lawmakers to dehumanize transgender people has contributed to creating unwelcoming spaces for trans Texans. Whether it’s school, work, or accessing public accommodations, transgender Texans do not deserve to worry about their safety and well-being. Ignoring the harm caused by these bills to prioritize hypothetical emergencies is nothing short of negligent leadership."

"Holding yet another hearing demonstrates just how hard legislators are working to pass a discriminatory harmful bill that is opposed by thousands of Texans, educators, businesses, medical experts, and more," added Rebecca Marques, Texas state director for the Human Rights Campaign. "This time, the House is trying something new: while one version of the bill, SB 3, proceeds along the traditional route of jurisdiction through the House Public Education Committee, an identical version, HB 25, is taking a different path through this newly created Select Committee, and the Select Committee is moving fast. Despite deep exhaustion from speaking out against these repeated attempts to pass anti-trans legislation, supporters of LGTBQ+ equality have been tireless in their efforts to ask Texas legislators to stop targeting trans children."

The House Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies took up the bill Wednesday. You can watch the hearing here.

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