AUSTIN — After Republican state lawmakers sabotaged the effort earlier this year, the Texas House of Representatives now has another opportunity to safeguard young women in Texas.
On Tuesday, the Texas House Public Education Committee is scheduled to meet and consider Senate Bill 2, a proposed law to ensure male students would not be allowed to compete on designated women’s sports teams.
The bill states Texas public high schools “may not allow a student to compete in an interscholastic athletic competition sponsored or authorized by the district or school that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex.”
The proposal comes as school-aged girls across the country face the threat of losing their sports scholarships and opportunities to boys pretending to be girls. The NCAA currently allows biological boys to intrude on girls’ sports and even threatened earlier this year to move championship games away from Texas if state lawmakers chose to pass the bills that defend women.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature could have approved multiple similar protections for women in their regular legislative session, and indeed the Texas Senate passed them, but lawmakers in the Texas House chose to let the effort fail. The issue was one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities.
Now, as the state legislature continues their second special session after a dramatic political theater-filled summer, two primary questions remain on the issue: will they finally approve the protections, and will they secure both high school and college women’s sports?
On the first question, The Texas Senate has again already done their work—approving two separate laws to protect both high school and university women’s athletics—but the House remains a mystery. Republican Speaker of the House Dade Phelan sent the high school proposal (SB 2) to the potentially hostile public education committee, run by Phelan’s appointed chairman, Democrat State Rep. Harold Dutton (of Houston).
Notably, Dutton was one of the many Democrat lawmakers who in July pulled a political stunt and fled the capitol, forcing the House to stall their work for nearly 40 days. He, however, is now being allowed by Republican leadership to simply return to work, run a powerful committee in the Republican-majority House, and potentially stop Republican-priority work including the women’s sports protections.
Additionally, as relevant background, Phelan was one of only three Texas House Republicans to receive a positive grade from Equality Texas, a pro-LGBT advocacy organization that opposes the proposed safeguards.
On the second question, Speaker Phelan is currently only moving the high school proposal forward in the legislative process, leaving out the protections for female college athletes (notably, Gov. Greg Abbott also only called for high school protections, not college, in his special session agenda.)
Some House Republican lawmakers told Texas Scorecard it doesn’t make sense to defend one age group of girls and leave out the other.
“We absolutely should pass a bill to protect women’s sports at both levels,” said State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City). “If we fail to do this, it will be a bad mark on our legacy as legislators.”
“It’s crucial that colleges are included in any sports bill passed this session,” said State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg). “The Texas House must safeguard both women and girls.”
With the state legislature having only less than two weeks left in their current special session, concerned citizens may contact their state representatives.