Of the many legislative priorities that had been discussed throughout the 87th Legislative Session, perhaps none has been more perplexing and mired in political double-speak than legislation related to protecting children and prohibiting gender modification.

It is a topic that should alarm anyone who values protecting the most vulnerable among us. The uncomfortable truth is the majority of Texans likely do not even know it’s an issue at all, and it seemed that most lawmakers would rather communicate empty platitudes of support than actually get the problem solved.

The 87th Legislative Session has concluded. Six bills were filed to address the RPT legislative priority issue, but not one of them made it through the legislative process in a Republican-controlled Legislature with Republican leaders.

The Actors

At the end of the day, the Texas Senate passed two bills relating to children and gender modification, enabled by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Both of those bills went through the Senate State Affairs Committee chaired by Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes (Mineola). They were authored by Republican State Sens. Charles Perry (Lubbock) and Bob Hall (Edgewood).

The Texas House of Representatives was seemingly reluctant to act. Of the two Senate bills that were passed, they chose not to hear either of them. The one House bill that did get placed on a calendar, authored by Republican State Rep. Matt Krause (Haslet), was buried at the end of a calendar against one of the several self-imposed deadlines in the House. House Speaker Dade Phelan delayed referring one of the bills that had passed the Senate until it was too late. House Calendars Committee Chairman State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) aided in slow-walking the House bill that made it to his committee. The House Public Health Committee, chaired by State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Ft. Worth) chose not to hear one of the Senate bills altogether and slow-walked the House bill that did pass to the committee coordinator.

All of the bills were based on a series of issues surrounding a child named James Younger, son of Jeff Younger. When James Younger was 2 years old, his mother began telling him that he was a girl and coerced him to present himself as such in public. In 2019, the story garnered viral attention as the parents, who were going through a divorce, disputed authority in making medical decisions on James’ behalf, including decisions and information the mother was seeking in the process of transitioning James to the opposite sex.

You can find out more information about this issue by watching our feature story here.

Summary of the Bills and Their Disposition in the Legislative Process

House Bill 68 – Authored by State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) – Adds to the definition of child abuse acts such as allowing a physician to perform a sterilization surgery, performing a mastectomy, or administering puberty blockers or doses of testosterone or estrogen.

This bill was filed on the first day of available pre-filing on November 9, 2020. It was referred to the House Public Health Committee on February 25 but never received a public hearing.

House Bill 1399 – Authored by State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Haslet) – Prohibits a physician from performing gender transition surgeries or administering puberty blockers or testosterone or estrogen to minors. It also prohibits a liability insurance policy from being issued to a physician who performs these procedures.

This bill was filed on January 27 and referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 5. The bill was heard in a public hearing on April 14 and voted out of committee by a vote of 6-4 on April 15. Notably, it took almost two weeks for the committee report to get filed with the committee coordinator on April 27, where it was then sent to the House Calendars Committee. The House Calendars Committee did not consider the bill for placement on a calendar until almost two weeks later, on May 10, where they ultimately placed the bill behind several other bills with virtually no way for the House to consider it in time before a self-imposed deadline. This was the only House bill to receive a hearing, let alone get further than the committee process in the House. Notably, five of the seven Republicans on the House Calendars Committee were also authors of the bill.

Senate Bill 1311 – Authored by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) – Prohibits a physician from performing gender transition surgeries or administering puberty blockers to minors. It also prohibits the provision of insurance and requires the Texas Medical Board to rescind the license of a physician who participates in these procedures.

The bill was filed on March 9 and first heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee on April 12 and again on April 15. It was voted out of the committee on April 19. It was not until May 14 that the Senate placed it on its Intent Calendar as a response to the similar House Bill 1399, which was dying on its calendar. It was finally voted out of the Senate on May 18 by a vote of 18-13. It was received by the House on May 19, but the House chose not to refer the bill even though they were convened on both May 19 and 20.

In fact, they referred the bill on May 24 after returning from an abrupt recess called by State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Allen) and House Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody (D–El Paso), an attempt to strong-arm the Senate to act on stalled criminal justice reform bills by threatening to not act on priority Senate bills in the House. The bill was already a “Hail Mary” attempt made virtually impossible when Leach made that motion, as a deadline on Saturday, May 22, precluded committees from passing any additional Senate bills from their committee.

House Bill 2693 – Authored by State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) – Companion to SB 1311 – Prohibits a physician from performing gender transition surgeries or administering puberty blockers to minors. It also prohibits the provision of insurance and requires the Texas Medical Board to rescind the license of a physician who participates in these procedures.

The bill was filed on March 3 and referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 17, where it never received a hearing.

Senate Bill 1646 – Authored by State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) – Adds to the definition of child abuse acts such as allowing a physician to perform a sterilization surgery, performing a mastectomy, or administering puberty blockers or doses of testosterone or estrogen.

The bill was filed on March 11 and referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee on March 24. It received a public hearing on April 12. It was briefly left pending before being considered in another public hearing on April 15. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted out the bill on April 20 by a vote of 6-2. It was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar on April 22 and ultimately voted out of the Senate on April 28 by a vote of 18-12. The House received the bill on April 29, and it was referred to the House Public Health Committee on May 3, where it never received a hearing.

House Bill 4014 – Authored by State Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mt. Pleasant) – Companion to SB 1646 – Adds to the definition of child abuse acts such as allowing a physician to perform a sterilization surgery, performing a mastectomy, or administering puberty blockers or doses of testosterone or estrogen.

The bill was filed on March 11 and referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 29, where it never received a hearing.

Detailed Timeline of Events

October 23, 2019 – Gov. Greg Abbott tweets that the James Younger case is being looked into by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Haslet) also tweets his promise to introduce a bill to address the issue.

November 9, 2020 – House Bill 68 (Toth) was pre-filed in the House.

January 12 – 87th Legislative Session began.

January 27 – House Bill 1399 (Krause) was filed in the House.

February 25 – House Bill 68 (Toth) was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

March 3 – House Bill 2693 (Toth) was filed in the House.

March 5 – House Bill 1399 (Krause) was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

March 9 – Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) was filed in the Senate.

March 11 – Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) was filed in the Senate. House Bill 4014 (Hefner) was filed in the House.

March 17 – House Bill 2693 (Toth) was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

March 18 – Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

March 24 –  State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) sponsored a press conference on what he called “innocence protection” legislation. The press conference featured Toth; State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood); and Jill Glover, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas’ Legislative Priorities Committee; among others. Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

March 29 – House Bill 4014 (Hefner) was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

April 12 – Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) and Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) received public hearings in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Both were left pending.

April 14 – House Bill 1399 (Krause) was heard in a public hearing in the House Public Health Committee.

April 15 – Both Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) and Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) were heard again in the Senate State Affairs Committee. House Bill 1399 (Krause) passed the House Public Health Committee.

April 19 – House Bill 1399 (Krause) was passed out of the House Public Health Committee. Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) was passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee.

April 20 – The Senate State Affairs Committee passed out Senate Bill 1646 (Perry).

April 22 – Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar.

April 27 – Committee Report for House Bill 1399 (Krause) filed with the committee coordinator. House Bill 1399 (Krause) in House Calendars Committee.

April 28 – Senate passes Senate Bill 1646 (Perry).

April 29 – House received Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) from the Senate.

May 3 – Senate Bill 1646 (Perry) was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

May 10 – House Calendars Committee considers House Bill 1399 (Krause) and places it on a calendar for consideration by the whole House for May 12.

May 11 – Due to a self-imposed calendar deadline in the House of Representatives requiring the last daily calendar with House bills and House joint resolutions to be distributed by 10 p.m., the legislative prospects of the following bills ended: HB 68 (Toth), HB 2693 (Toth), and HB 4014 (Hefner).

May 12 – House Bill 1399 (Krause) on calendar but not considered due to delayed bill consideration from previous legislative calendars.

May 13 – Due to a self-imposed calendar deadline in the House of Representatives precluding the House from considering any additional House bills and House joint resolutions on second reading, the legislative prospects for HB 1399 ended. Though it was posted on a calendar for consideration, the House did not get far enough in their consideration of other bills also on the calendar by midnight.

May 14 – Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar.

May 18 – Senate passes Senate Bill 1311 (Hall).

May 19 – House received Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) from the Senate.

May 20 – State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Allen) and House Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody (D–El Paso) make a motion for the House to recess until Sunday, May 23. No one objects. House recesses.

May 22 – Due to a self-imposed calendar deadline in the House of Representatives precluding House committees from passing out any additional Senate bills and Senate joint resolutions after midnight, the legislative prospects for Senate Bill 1311 ended.

May 23 – House reconvenes from abrupt recess on May 20.

May 24 – House refers Senate Bill 1311 (Hall) to the House Public Health Committee.

What Happens Now

With regard to the bills, nothing can really be done. The Legislature ultimately failed to address the issue. Never mind that several of the bills on the subject had overwhelming support from more than half of the members of the House Republican and Senate caucuses. Never mind that Republicans control all levers of power in the executive and legislative branches.

The next step is to ensure accountability for the actors who employed every effort to not save children around the state from genital mutilation.