Texas governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed into law a bill banning transgender girls from participating in female sports at public schools. The bill is part of a wave of similar measures emerging from Republican-controlled statehouses across the US.
Trans rights advocates decry such restrictions as discriminatory, “hate”-based measures whose real purpose is to energize hard-core social conservatives. They say there is little or no evidence that trans women or girls are dominating sports.
“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas. “Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong.”
Supporters of the bill, due to take effect on 18 January, say it is aimed at protecting fairness in school sports by eliminating what they see as an inherent physical competitive advantage of transgender athletes playing on female teams.
Worcester Warriors v Bath Rugby, Gallagher Premiership, Rugby, Sixways Stadium, Worcester, UK – 05 Dec 2020<br>Mandatory Credit: Photo by Andy Watts/REX/Shutterstock (11145285h) Generic view of Sixways during the Gallagher Premiership match between Worcester Warriors and Bath Rugby, 05 December 2020. Worcester Warriors v Bath Rugby, Gallagher Premiership, Rugby, Sixways Stadium, Worcester, UK – 05 Dec 2020
Seven other states have passed similar laws this year as part of a Republican-led national campaign that started in March 2020. That’s when Idaho barred athletes who were assigned a male gender at birth from competing on teams against those assigned as female in public schools or colleges. Enforcement of the Idaho ban has been blocked by a federal court pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Other states whose legislatures have followed Idaho’s lead include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia, while South Dakota’s governor acted by executive order. Some of those are likewise under court challenge.
Still, at least 35 bills to exclude transgender youth from athletics have been introduced in 31 states this year, up from 29 in 2020 and two in 2019, according to a tally earlier this year by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The transgender sports measure marks the latest in a slate of right-wing bills advanced by Texas’ legislature and Republican governor this year, including laws placing new restrictions on voting and abortion.