With Gov. Greg Abbott poised to sign a transgender sports restrictions bill into law, the White House on Tuesday denounced Texas’ “hateful” move to exclude students from school teams based on their sex at birth.
Abbott prodded lawmakers all year for the bill, and commended them Tuesday for having finally “passed legislation to protect the integrity of Texas high school sports.”
The Biden administration had a dramatically different take.
“This hateful bill in Texas is just the latest example of Republican state lawmakers using legislation to target transgender kids — whom the president believes are some of the bravest Americans — in order to score political points,” White House spokesman Ike Hajinazarian told The Dallas Morning News. “These anti-transgender bills are nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation and undermine our nation’s core values.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki deferred to the Justice Department on the question of whether the administration would challenge the Texas restrictions, but emphasized that “the president’s view is that transgender rights are human rights, whether for adults or kids.”
In Austin, where the third special session wrapped up in the wee hours Tuesday, the governor lauded the Legislature for addressing redistricting and property taxes and going “above and beyond to solve other critical issues to ensure an even brighter future for the Lone Star State.”
In June, the Department of Education announced that going forward, it will interpret Title IX, which bars federal funding of schools that discriminate on the basis of sex, to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – setting up a likely clash with Texas and states with similar restrictions.
Abbott hasn’t said when he’ll sign House Bill 25 into law, but there’s no doubt he will, having pressed for the trans sports ban all year.
A similar bill made it through the Senate during the regular session that ended in May, but not the House.
The Texas governor’s authority includes setting the agenda for a 30-day special session.
Abbott used that power to prod lawmakers to keep trying – three more times, as it turned out.
He listed the topic as the focus of special sessions announced in July, August and September, each time directing the Legislature to take up a measure “disallowing a student from competing in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student’s sex at birth.”
Advocates of the law insist that allowing transgender athletes to compete alongside girls puts girls at a disadvantage.
LGBTQ advocates dispute that and likely will challenge the law.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation took Florida to court in June over a transgender sports ban, and has threatened to sue Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, as well.
State Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and founding member and secretary of the House LGBTQ Caucus, called the ban “a mean-spirited attack on vulnerable children” that turns them into “casualties in a culture war.”
“There are no documented incidents in Texas of a transgender girl taking an athletic opportunity away from a cisgender girl, but the damage done to the mental health of our transgender students is well-documented,” she said.
Progressives and LGBTQ advocates call the bill discriminatory.
“The trans sports ban is a harmful ‘solution’ in search of a nonexistent problem, and even proponents of the bill could not give real life examples of the scenarios they claim they’re trying to prevent,” said Wesley Story, communications director at Progress Texas, asserting that Abbott was “stigmatizing a group of kids simply for being different for a few far-right votes in the Republican primaries.”
President Joe Biden has prodded Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would supersede state laws of the sort on Abbott’s desk.
The administration “will keep fighting for the full measure of equality, dignity and respect that all LGBTQI+ Americans deserve,” Hajinazarian said, adding that “the White House will be engaging stakeholders in Texas and other states in the coming days and weeks to build a path forward together toward true LGBTQI+ equality.”