Abbott Vaccine Presser

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks in December during a press conference. Abbott has said he will sign a bill from Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry that would prevent transgender youth in Texas from competing on teams that align with their gender identity.

Gov. Greg Abbott says he would sign a bill preventing transgender youth from competing on teams that align with their gender identity if it clears the Legislature over opposition from lawmakers who decry it as discriminatory.

Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry’s Senate Bill 29 would do so by stipulating that young athletes in the state are allowed to compete only in sports that match the sex designated on their original birth certificates.

“For five years the University Interscholastic League in Texas has had a rule in place prohibiting boys from playing girls in girls’ sports,” Abbott said during a Thursday night appearance on Fox News’ Town Hall with Laura Ingraham and several other Republican governors. “But the Texas Legislature is working on a bill to codify that, which I will sign.”

The bill was passed on April 15 out of the Texas Senate with a 18-12 vote after passionate debate and a marathon hearing on March 26. It was referred to the Texas House Committee on Public Education on April 19, where it awaits another highly anticipated hearing. It still needs approval from the committee and the full House before it would head to Abbott’s desk.

While the UIL has upheld strict policies for transgender student-athletes in Texas, transgender athletes do have a way of competing on teams that align with their gender identity if they obtain a court order to change their birth certificate.

This bill would eliminate that by only accepting birth certificates that had a student’s sex entered “at or near the time” of their birth, or modified to “correct a clerical error.” One of the few exceptions in the bill would allow female students to compete on male teams if a corresponding team is otherwise not available to them.

Similar bills have been signed in West Virginia, Tennessee and another bill heads to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also said during the Fox News Town Hall that he intends to sign the bill.

Opponents call it discriminatory and anti-LGBTQ legislation, saying it unfairly targets an already marginalized group. Supporters argue allowing transgender women to compete potentially puts others in harm’s way physically. Opponents continue to call it a nonissue and ask for specific examples of this being a problem in Texas.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, asked Perry during debate on the Senate floor if he was aware of how many cases there were of this negatively impacting Texans, and if that number justified this proposal.

“We are the second-largest state; we probably have as many sports as anyone,” Whitmire said. “Would you not agree that as we stand here on this floor, most local jurisdictions are handling it appropriately or we’d be hearing about it?”

Perry said he viewed it as a bill in preparation for a “trend that is being nationally recognized as a problem,” but did not specify who identified the trend.

SB 29 is one of several that opponents label as anti-transgender. This week the Senate passed SB 1646, also from Perry, which would consider it child abuse to provide gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender youth.

The bill would expand the definition of abuse to include supplying or consenting to the use of puberty suppression treatment, hormone or surgery for the purpose of transitioning before they turn 18.

SB 29, if signed, could also spell trouble for the state’s plans to host future NCAA events. The governing body for college athletics and its Board of Governors have already issued warnings in the form of statements.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” a statement from the NCAA Board of Governors said.

Between the three Final Fours and the College Football National Championship scheduled to be hosted by some of Texas’ major cities between now and 2025, there is a potential economic impact of more than $1 billion, the Houston Chronicle reported.

When told these events could be in jeopardy for Texas if SB 29 goes into law, Perry responded, “Sometimes, things are worth more than money.”