AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill related to transgender students’ participation in sports got its first hearing during the special legislative session Tuesday and spanned into the morning hours Wednesday.
Senate Bill 2 would require student transgender athletes to play on teams that correspondent with their biological sex. It applies to students starting in kindergarten through college attending Texas public schools.
The House Public Education Committee began business at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday with four other bills scheduled on the agenda. It wasn’t until closer to 8:30 p.m. when representatives began discussion on the transgender sports bill, with testimony going until around 6 a.m.
Lawmakers postponed advancing the bill, and it will remain pending in its committee.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, a group of LGBTQ advocates held a press conference in opposition to SB2.
Anne Liberman, a non-binary former athlete, said “sports saved her life” growing up as a kid.
“I didn’t yet know the word for who I was, but I did know that sports was one of the only places where I can be myself,” Liberman said. “…SB2 weaponizes sports and uses it to bully and dehumanize transgender youth in Texas.”
Republicans in support of the bill have said it is a necessary measure to ensure an equal playing field in sports.
“The overwhelming majority — regardless of political affiliation, men or women — believe it’s common sense policy to allow girls to compete with girls and boys to compete with boys for both equity in their peer groups, equality, traditions, history and safety,” said Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, the bill’s author.
Mary Elizabeth Castle is the senior policy advisor for Texas Values, a conservative advocacy group. She supports the bill, saying it will protect the opportunities women in sports have fought for since Title IX was created.
“Just the differences in the bodies of males and females — not just the lung capacity, the muscle mass, the makeup of the male body is different — and so we want to make sure that women can compete fairly, and that they can actually win when they play,” Castle said.
Liberman said that thinking assumes women need “protecting” and having transgender teammates is not a challenge women in sports face.
“The focus on trans women and not trans men is inherently sexist, because it’s grounded in the idea that women could never be as strong or as tough as men,” Liberman said.
The House Public Education Committee does not currently have another meeting scheduled. The bill would have to pass in that committee in order to be considered for debate by the full chamber.