The Republican-led Texas legislature is on the verge of banning biological males identifying as female from competing in women’s collegiate sports.
Texas House Republicans withstood multiple attempts by Democrats to scuttle or weaken Senate Bill 15, called the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” when it was presented for a second reading and vote on May 17.
The bill passed mainly along party lines. A third vote on the bill is expected the next day before it returns to the Senate for approval and then to the governor.
If passed into law, Texas would join a growing number of red states prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on teams that don’t align with their sex at birth.
SB 15 was presented on the House floor by Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, who sponsored the similar House Bill 23 that did not make it out of committee.
Transgender activists unsuccessfully pleaded with lawmakers in the House Higher Education Committee earlier in the month to reject the bill.
According to the bill, universities, colleges, or intercollegiate athletic teams that violate the bill could face civil injunctive orders.
Institutions of higher education or intercollegiate athletic teams may not retaliate against a person for reporting a violation of the bill.
It also would allow women to compete against men in sports if a corresponding women’s team is not offered or available.
The bill, filed by Republican Sen. Mayes Middleton, received Senate approval in March.
The piece of legislation is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities this session, and Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he would sign the bill into law.
Democrats fought the bill because they believed it discriminates against males identifying as female who want to compete in women’s sports. During the House debate, they claimed it was an answer looking for a problem because no trans athletes were competing on the collegiate level in Texas.
“What exactly are we saving them from?” Democrat Rep. John Bucy said when presenting an amendment that would have essentially killed the bill.
Bucy called the concern over transgender competition in sports a “made-up issue.”
But he struggled when Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer asked, “What is a woman?”
“When they say they’re a woman, then they’re a woman,” Bucy said.
When presenting the bill for a vote, Swanson said Texas had already protected girls from competing against boys who say they are female in K-12 schools.
SB 15 was needed, she said, to do the same for women on the collegiate level.
Swanson said SB 15 recognizes that males are biologically different and have a physiological advantage when competing against females.
Females have lost sports titles to biological males competing against them, she said.
Besides the issue of fairness, allowing bigger, more muscular males to play against women was “unsafe” and even “dangerous,” she said.
Swanson recounted one such case when a female high school volleyball player suffered a severe injury in the fall of 2022 after a biological male spiked the ball at her.
The male competing on the girl’s high school volleyball team hit the “volleyball so hard on the girl’s shorter net that it knocked Peyton McNabb out,” she said.
McNabb testified last month before North Carolina lawmakers that she suffered a concussion and neck injury. She urged them to pass a ban similar to the Texas bill.
Biological Male on Women’s Cheer Team
Swanson also noted during her presentation that in Texas in 2022, a 25-year-old biological male received a scholarship to attend Ranger Junior College and be on the women’s cheer team.
Three years earlier, he was kicked off the Oklahoma State Panhandle cheer team after posting a naked photo of a female teammate in the shower and “waging a campaign of harassment against other women who objected to his behavior,” she said. He was allowed to sleep in rooms with females on trips and “shower right next to them,” she added.
He was then banned from Ranger Junior College for choking a 17-year-old female teammate in the dorms after previously verbally harassing her in the communal shower, Swanson said.
The issue of transgender athletes competing against women has become a growing point of contention between conservatives and left-wing ideologues across the country.
Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer at the University of Kentucky, spotlighted the issue after she tied for fifth place with Lia Thomas, a former transgender University of Pennsylvania biological male swimmer. Gains competed against Thomas in the women’s 200-yard freestyle at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship.
Since then, Gaines has become a vocal proponent of stopping transgender athletes from competing against women because they think they’re female.
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