In his clearest sign of support for specific legislation aimed at the LGBTQ community this session, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he wants state lawmakers to ban transgender athletes from competing in collegiate sports.

Speaking in front of a gathering over the weekend of the Young America’s Foundation in Dallas, Abbott pledged that the Texas Legislature will soon pass a law requiring transgender college athletes to compete according to their sex assigned at birth.

“This next session, we will pass a law prohibiting biological men to compete against women in college sports (sic),” Abbott told host Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin, according to a recording of their discussion.

The term transgender refers to someone who identifies as a gender that is different from what they were assigned at birth. A transgender man, for example, may have been assigned female at birth but identifies as a male.

Two GOP state lawmakers — Spring Rep. Valoree Swanson and Galveston Sen. Mayes Middleton — have filed bills restricting transgender collegiate athletes this session. Thousands of bills are typically filed every session, but the governor’s support will dramatically boost the likelihood that this or something like it will pass.

As transgender athletes have become more visible, conservative leaders nationwide have sought to clamp down on where, when and how they can compete in certain sporting events. A year ago, the NCAA updated its policy to support transgender athletes competing according to the gender they identity with, providing they pass certain hormone level benchmarks.

Abbott already signed into law similar restrictions on transgender athletes in high school sports in 2021.

Ricardo Martinez, who leads the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, said Abbott’s comments “openly alienate trans people who already encounter so many obstacles.”

“Sports are an important part of the lives of many young people. They teach young people about teamwork, persistence and sportsmanship,” he said. “This type of legislation would abandon trans athletes and leave them without a way to express themselves in sports.”

The governor’s pledge for this session, first reported by The Texas Tribune, came at the end of extensive remarks he made Saturday about the current state of play regarding transgender athletes. He mentioned professional surfer Bethany Hamilton’s recent decision not to compete against transgender women after the World Surf League changed its policies to open up competition and, without naming her, also brought up Texas-born swimmer Lia Thomas.

“That’s just not right,” Abbott said of Hamilton. He later added: “Women and only women should be competing in college or high school sports, as well as representing the United States of America in our Olympic sports.”

This session, Republican lawmakers have proposed more than a dozen bills that would adversely affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans, including bans on gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on drag shows, and prohibitions on the discussion of gender and sexuality in public schools.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he supports passing a bill to address the latter, and put so-called parental rights bills on his list of priorities. In November, Abbott urged lawmakers to address what he called “indoctrination” in public schools and has also backed parental rights legislation. But the governor has not yet revealed his priority bills, called emergency items, for this session.

In his remarks Saturday, Abbott also lauded the state’s energy resources and its efforts to build a wall on the border with Mexico, blasted colleges where controversial conservatives have seen their speeches canceled and lauded newly minted Texan Elon Musk for his takeover of Twitter.

“He has ensured a level playing field for conservative speech on Twitter, and you can see the difference in the way that Twitter operates today. We need the same type of revelations and changes in all social media platforms,” Abbott said.


©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.