The Senate passed the bill 18 to 12, with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) absent. Lucio had previously voted against the bill on its second reading.
“To be clear, my faith teaches me that we should treat everybody the way we’d want to be treated, and we’re always found with these dilemmas in today’s times that are frankly sometimes hard to explain… This bill was about protecting an institution, a tradition, [an] opportunity for women to have a venue to succeed in,” Perry said.
“It was about making sure what we have done for women’s athletics stays, and it really didn’t change anything in status quo.”
Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said the proposal will cause harm if implemented, alluding to economic blowback from the National Collegiate Athletic Association but focusing mostly on personal stories from his district.
“I am concerned about the unintended consequences, perhaps even the intended consequences, because I want to be the voice for folks in Texas that have transgender children that, quite frankly, members, just want to be left alone,” Whitmire said.
“I do know that this legislation will be painful to people that I represent and, quite frankly, I think we all have transgender families in our district and it would be our duty to reach out and try and hear from them… I know that this can be a learning experience, and I think we’ll all be better for the contact that we would have with those families that were here testifying the other day.”
“Me and you do not disagree on pretty much anything you just said,” Perry responded. “This bill has a very specific target and objective. I think we have met that.”
Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) praised the bill as a way to secure women’s sports scholarships and compared the proposal to rules the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has in place now that separate bigger, wealthier districts from smaller districts.
“We ask the UIL to create and enforce standards that create fair competition. High schools with, say, 150 students, they don’t compete on the same football field against high schools with 4,000 students,” Campbell said.
“That’s all this bill does. It’s not about anything else. It doesn’t stop people from competing. It doesn’t ban anybody. It just ensures who you compete against to keep it fair, to make sure our daughters have opportunities… to pursue scholarships that allow them to attend colleges that they may not have been able to attend otherwise.”
In Texas, as in many states, people that undergo a sex change may alter their birth certificates. Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) pressed Perry on whether the UIL would respect the changed birth certificates of transgender athletes. While current UIL policy simply determines gender based on birth certificate and respects legal birth certificate alteration, Perry’s bill only respects the original document. The text of the bill says a statement of birth is considered correct only if it was “entered at or near the time of the student’s birth; or modified to correct a clerical error in the student’s biological sex.”
Otherwise, Perry’s bill mirrors current UIL policy. The league finalized its choice to use birth certificates as the official benchmark for gender with a statewide vote in 2016 between superintendents of all UIL-member schools. 95 percent of them voted in favor of using birth certificates. All told, only 32 superintendents voted against the rule out of the 620 that participated in the referendum.
Both state law and league rules forbid the use of steroids except for those prescribed by doctors for a valid medical purpose.
The year after the UIL voted to determine gender by birth certificate, Texas wrestler and female-to-male student Mack Beggs won a girl’s wrestling state championship made controversial by the use of testosterone. Beggs’ win prompted Sen. Bob Hall (R-Friendswood) to introduce a bill that died in committee but would have effectively forbidden the use of testosterone in school athletic competitions.
The UIL defended its choice to keep wrestling sex-segregated as a popular decision made not just by the league but by an overwhelming majority of its members.
“This open approach has produced rules that reflect views widely held by school districts across the state and are intended to serve Texas students,” the league stated.
Perry’s bill would codify the current policy against making certain sports coed which otherwise would be subject to change twice a year when the Legislative Council of the UIL meets. The bill would not affect private leagues like TAPPS.
“These individuals still can compete, and they can do it under their biological sex,” Perry said before the Senate took a final vote.
“My door is always open. Always open… Everybody, anybody and everybody within earshot or that will listen to this has always got an open door in my office, and we will have those frank and transparent conversations, and we will always seek to find consensus where it will be done, but I will not yield from a principled, faith-based perspective.”
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