Texas Senate, moving with haste, passes transgender sports bill

Chuck Lindell
Austin American-Statesman

Austin, Texas – Moving with haste, the Texas Senate approved legislation Friday night that would require transgender students to play public school sports according to the “biological sex” listed on their birth certificate.

Republican senators sped matters by skipping a public hearing on House Bill 25, eliminating a step that had brought hundreds of transgender Texans, their families and advocates to several marathon Capitol hearings earlier this year.

And, unlike a testy 10-hour debate over HB 25 in the Texas House one day earlier, Senate passage came Friday with no discussion – though Democrats and Republicans had vigorously clashed during four previous debates on similar bills in the regular session and three special sessions.

Claudia Carranza, of Harlingen, hugs her son, Laur Kaufman, 13, at a rally against House Bill 25, a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports, outside the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The special session ends Tuesday, giving little time to finish work.

“Trans kids deserve so much more time and consideration than they have been shown in the Texas Legislature,” the LGBTQ-rights group Equality Texas said on Twitter. “They deserve not to be debated but affirmed, to be loved, and the right to exist without their government trying to push them out of everyday life.”

The Senate vote was 19-12, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed but one – state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville.

HB 25 next returns to the House because senators voted to remove an amendment – added Thursday by freshman state Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican – that defined biological sex as “the physical condition of being male or female as determined by the sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous profile of the individual at birth.”

State Sen. Charles Perry, a Lubbock Republican and the Senate sponsor of HB 25, said Slaton’s definition raised more questions than it answered and could lead to “unintended consequences.”

“It doesn’t serve any purpose and it probably creates bigger problems,” Perry said Friday. “It doesn’t fit in this bill.”

If the House accepts the change, HB 25 will go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who had been pressing for passage of limits on transgender sports participation in all three special sessions.

HB 25 arrived at the Senate on Friday morning after House Republicans and Democrats clashed over the bill’s intent and impact.

Republicans insist the bill is needed to protect girls from competing against “biological males” who are typically bigger, stronger and faster – putting girls’ safety and competitive fairness at risk.

Democrats argued that there are no examples of a transgender student taking a Texas girl’s spot on a team or causing an injury. Instead, they argued, HB 25 was a mean-spirited attack on a vulnerable population to score political points with GOP primary voters.

Friday afternoon, Senate Republicans voted to suspend the rule that requires at least 24 hours of notice before a bill could be considered in committee.

Soon after, the committee met in a room just off the Senate floor. Unlike most committee meetings, it was not livestreamed, but according to an audio record posted online afterward, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican and chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said she was invoking a Senate rule that allows committees to skip a public hearing on House bills that are similar to Senate bills already approved by the panel.

A few hours later, HB 25 came to the Senate floor for a vote.