While female collegiate athletes are at risk of having their opportunities taken by biological men competing in the same events, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he will champion legislation to protect them.
Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to prohibit biological male students from competing in designated women’s athletic contests at public schools, though the protections did not extend to college students after the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened to pull major sporting events from the state.
The issue was resurrected recently, however, after the NCAA crowned Lia Thomas—a biological male—as the women’s national swimming champion in the 500-yard freestyle. The Florida Legislature already protected college girls from this infringement, and Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a proclamation recognizing would-be winner Emma Weyant as the rightful national champion in the NCAA contest.
While Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan have been silent on whether the issue will be addressed in the next legislative session (neither responded to requests for comment), Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says protections must be added regardless of pushback from the NCAA.
“I began this fight in 2017, and I do not plan on stopping now,” Patrick told Texas Scorecard. “We need to protect women’s sports at all levels, including college, no matter what the NCAA says or thinks. We will have a bill next session addressing this matter.”
That bill could face steep opposition in the Texas House, where State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) has already pledged to file legislation to protect female college athletes.
Before becoming Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan was one of only three Texas House Republicans to receive a positive grade from Equality Texas, a pro-LGBT advocacy organization, and has exhibited no interest in passing such protections for college women. The bill to protect middle and high school students was only passed during a special session last year after Gov. Greg Abbott specifically stipulated that the legislation should not extend to college.
As stories of female collegiate athletes losing scholarships and opportunities to biological men competing in women’s sports, increasing pressure from grassroots activists could force a showdown between the two chambers when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2023.