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Advocacy groups, Texas state senator discuss Senate Bill 29 ahead of expected vote

Under the bill advanced by the state Senate, transgender students in Texas wouldn't be able to play on school sports teams matching their gender identity.

AUSTIN, Texas — Senate Bill 29, a bill that, if signed into law, would make it so any athlete would only be allowed to compete in athletic competitions based on their biological sex, received an initial approval from the Texas Senate on Wednesday. 

The 18-13 vote in favor advanced the bill in the Senate.

The bill is expected to receive a final official vote on Thursday. If approved, it would move on to the Texas House for debate and potentially a vote.

According to the bill's text, an interscholastic athletic team sponsored or authorized by a school district or open-enrollment charter school "may not allow a student to compete in an interscholastic athletic competition sponsored or authorized by the district or school that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student ’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth and correctly stated on the student ’s official birth certificate."

Credit: FILE
Texas state Senators meet in the Senate Chamber.

Support for the bill

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), who co-sponsored the bill, told KVUE on Wednesday the bill is about fairness in sports. 

"At the heart of it, while I feel for our transgender kids, when you're born a male, you have a physiologic advantage above a female," she said. "And so it's just not fair to all those little girls who dream of success at whatever their sport is to say you're going to be competing against someone who is born a biological male. It's just a fundamental unfairness."

She added she believes the vote, expected on Thursday, will push the bill onto the Texas House.

Other groups, like Texas Values, have also voiced support for the bill. 

"It's a bill that ensures that there's a fair playing level field for girls in sports," said Mary Elizabeth Castle, a policy adviser for Texas Values. "It just makes sure that girls can have a chance to shine in their particular athletic pursuits and just ensure that their rights are protected under Title IX." 

Castle also is optimistic about the bill making it through the Senate. 

"We think it's something everyone can rally behind. A lot of different opposing groups that normally don't work together have worked together on the idea for this bill," she said. 

Pushback against the bill

Meanwhile, the bill has received pushback from local advocacy groups, including a demonstration held Monday night held by Equality Texas where parents spoke out against the bill.

"We're disappointed for the families who are directly impacted, for all the kids that just want to participate with their friends who may not have that right if this bill were to become law," Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, said Wednesday night. "There's a reluctance by parents to come out here and tell their story because in essence they will 'out' their kids ... Kids are participating. They don't want to be found out. They're worried about whether or not they're going to be able to continue participating in sports that they love, in sports that teach them valuable lessons about life, about camaraderie, that allow them to give them the opportunity to build lifelong friendships. And to rob them of that experience that everyone gets is just cruel."

Overall, Martinez is hoping that if the bill makes it through the Senate, the House will consider voting against it.

"I would hope that they are really going home and thinking about the impact that this would have directly on trans kids right now, and if they haven't met with trans families, I would urge them to do so, so that they can understand that these bills, even if they get hearings, are negatively impacting people," he said. "And my message to trans kids right now is that you are perfect just the way that you are, and what people say about you has no – absolutely no – impact on your value as a human being. You're perfect."

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