AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott held a bill signing ceremony Thursday afternoon to sign legislation he says will “protect women’s sports,” but LGBTQ advocates say it harms their community.
Senate Bill 15 bans collegiate-level transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that do not align with their biological sex assigned at birth. It expands on similar restrictions that were signed into law two years ago, applying to sports play for Texas public schools grades K-12.
During the regular legislative session, Republican women like bill sponsor Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring said the bill is to ensure competition is fair for female athletes.
“This legislation is not about participation. This legislation is not about restricting anyone’s opportunities,” Swanson said in May. “It is not fair that young women are watching their records get broken, accolades taken and scholarships awarded, not to other women, but to biological man.”
During a May House floor debate, Rep. John Bucy, D-Austin, joined other Democrats and LGBTQ organizations who say the bill is harmful.
“There is no research or evidence to suggest this is affecting access or opportunity for Texas women,” he said. “We are wasting time on a made-up issue. When asked if they ever had a transgender athlete compete now or ever, [Texas colleges] said no. There are no transgender athletes in college sports. Not a one.”
SB 15 will require college athletes to join teams that align with their biological sex, regardless of the gender they may identify as. It also allows civilians to file lawsuits against a college or university if they believe the school is violating the law. Those who report any violations will be provided whistleblower protections, according to the bill.
The governor signed the legislation at 1 p.m.
Behind the governor were former athletes like Westlake mom Jeri Shanteau, clad with her medals from her college days swimming for Auburn University. Shanteau, an 11-time NCAA All-American and three-time national champion has advocated nationally for laws like these.
“We are not trying to take away from anyone else. It is a matter of ensuring that again, the safety, privacy and fairness for females,” she said.
A majority of Americans appear to support laws like this, according to a May survey by Gallup. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they think athletes should only be able to play on teams that match their gender assigned at birth.
Despite this, LGBTQ advocates say the issue is a nonstarter. Rocio Fierro-Perez, a senior political coordinator with Texas Freedom Network, said this law will further cause harm to transgender Texans.
“This bill is clearly discriminatory,” she said. “I think that there isn’t enough evidence, they’re creating a problem that doesn’t exist.”
There are no reports from Texas NCAA universities of transgender athletes competing in any sport, let alone stripping awards from female athletes.