Politics

Abbott signs bill limiting transgender youth participation on public school sports teams

The measure prohibits trans children and teens from playing on teams that align with their gender identity. LGBTQ+ rights groups in Texas and families of trans children say they are looking into legal options to challenge the bill.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed House Bill 25 into law. The bill requires students who participate in K-12 University Interscholastic League sports to play on teams that align with the sex assigned on the birth certificate issued closest to the student's birth. The law goes into effect this coming January.

Today's signing marks the end of a long journey for the controversial change. Several different iterations of the measure have been debated on and off since Texas' regular legislative session began in January.

Supporters of the bill say they believe it prevents trans athletes, specifically trans girls, from having an unfair advantage when they compete with cisgender students. Opponents say there is no evidence of that being a problem in Texas.

The measure also polls well with highly conservative voters – a group Abbott is trying to court as he heads into his 2022 reelection campaign.

Those against HB 25 say the bill is an attack on transgender children that is causing harm and anxiety to trans youth and their families.

"We're devastated," Ricardo Martinez, CEO of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, said in response to the bill's signing.

"Just the last 10 plus months — and despite the powerful testimony from trans kids and their parents, families, trans adults, the many emails our community has sent and the call the Governor's office received to veto this harmful legislation — they decided to move forward and we're just devastated."

After versions of HB 25 stalled in the full House during the regular legislative session – Governor Abbott made limiting transgender youth participation in public school sports a priority in every special session that followed.

"Our advocates, our parents, our trans and LGBTQ youth across Texas really need to refill their cup, to unpack this acute trauma that has been caused by these legislative sessions," Martinez with Equality Texas said. "Our community is our number one priority."

The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide and crisis intervention organization, said that was detrimental to trans youth in Texas, and reports its crisis contacts in the state have increased by 150% compared to last year. The group says many of the youth who contacted them cited the Texas Legislature’s consideration of bills targeting trans children and teens. Repeatedly hearing about these measures led to stress and thoughts of suicide.

Texas is now the fifth state in the US that prohibits trans youth from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. LGBTQ+ rights groups like Equality Texas say they are looking into legal options to challenge the bill.

Despite easily making it out of the full Senate during the first two special sessions – other similar bills stalled in a house committee. HB 25 did make it out of the full House earlier this month – as the end of the third special session neared. State senators quickly voted the measure out of the chamber, and it was sent to Gov. Abbott's desk after the House approved Senate amendments to the bill.

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