Senate Bill (SB) 29 made it to the House’s calendar, the last hurdle before a chamber vote. However, it suffered from a low priority calendar placement and “chubbing,” a stalling tactic involving largely insubstantial questions and long speeches meant to run out the clock and prevent the members from progressing through the calendar.
Carried by Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), the bill was one of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s priorities. It passed the Senate on a party-line vote.
Republicans said the bill is necessary to safeguard athletic opportunities for young female students.
“We ask the [University Interscholastic League] 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,” Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) said when the bill passed the Senate.
“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.”
Democrats have opposed the bill on social and fiscal grounds, calling it harmful to transgender youths and the economy. Democratic members of the state House and Senate said the bill’s social costs would outweigh its benefits, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has threatened retaliation against states that pass laws akin to SB 29.
“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,” Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said.
After Senate passage, the bill underwent a surprising resurrection. A narrow vote kept it from passing out of the House Public Education Committee, leaving it all but dead until committee chairman Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) not only brought it before the committee again but supported it as a political “consequence” to Democratic colleagues that had killed one of his bills the night before.
Dutton himself postponed consideration of the bill this evening.
At the committee hearings, other House Democrats called the bill a political scheme.
“The only reason we’re doing this is because certain Republican legislators… want to brag to their far-right primary voters that they hurt trans kids,” Rep. James Talarico (D-Austin) said.
“It’s the same voters who think the election was stolen.”
Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) characterized the bill as an expression of state sovereignty in light of an executive order siding with transgender athletes in efforts to compete with their preferred gender.
“The reality of the situation is the federal government is interfering with the education of our systems and creating rules and guidelines and it’s just a fact,” Huberty said.
“And you know we want to make sure the rules we have for Texas… are what we’re operating under. And I think that’s what we’re talking about.”
Perry introduced SB 29 as a simple codification of existing UIL rules, which define gender as the sex listed on a student’s birth certificate. However, as in several other states, Texas allows citizens to change their birth certificates. UIL respects these documents without investigation.
As Perry originally wrote it, SB 29 would only have accepted birth certificates that “correctly stated the student’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth.” The altered version that nearly made it to the House floor did not include this provision and would have expired in six years without renewal by the legislature.
UIL rules kept a female transgender wrestler — who was taking testosterone — in competition with fellow females in 2017, a high-profile story that inspired kindred legislation during the 2017 legislative session. Sen. Bob Hall (R-Friendswood) offered a bill to let the UIL ban students on steroids from competing “if the league determines that the safety of competing students or the fairness of a particular competition has been or will be substantially affected,” a notable difference from existing rules which allow steroids if approved by a medical professional.
Before hosting the 2017 state wrestling tournament, the UIL released a statement defending its rule to determine gender by birth certificate as an overwhelmingly popular choice among superintendents.
“After approval by the Legislative Council, the rule regarding birth certificates was placed, along with other UIL rules, on a referendum ballot so all UIL-member school superintendents could vote on this addition to the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules. On the referendum ballot, 95 percent of UIL-member school superintendents voted in favor of this item,” the statement reads.
SB 29 is not the first transgender-related bill to wither on the vine in the House as deadlines pass. HB 1399, the only ban on puberty blockers and gonadectomies for children to pass the House Public Health Committee where several similar bills gathered, also got a low spot on the House’s calendar and never saw a vote.
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