Gov. Greg Abbott signs Texas bill restricting transgender participation in school sports

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FILE - In this March 16, 2020 file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in San Antonio. Even before a strict abortion ban took effect in Texas this week, clinics in neighboring states were fielding more and more calls from women desperate for options. The Texas law, allowed to stand in a decision Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 by the U.S. Supreme Court, bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically around six weeks. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

A Texas bill seeking to limit transgender students' access to school sports is now law.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill on Monday that prohibits students in public schools from competing in sports that don't align with their gender listed at birth. The bill was passed by the State's Republican-led legislature earlier in October and sent to Abbott's desk for his signature.

The bill passed via a 76-61 margin in the House of Representatives and a 19-12 vote in the Senate. Abbott didn't publicly comment on the law upon signing it. It will take effect in January.

The bill overrides a previous provision to state law that allowed students to obtain a court order to permit them to compete as the gender with which they identify. Republican state Rep. Valoree Swanson, a vocal advocate of the bill, argued that the new law's intent is to protect girls in sports.

"We need a statewide level playing field," Swanson said while advocating for the bill on the House floor earlier in October. "It’s very important that we, who got elected to be here, protect our girls.”

LGBTQ advocates argue that the law's intent is to discriminate and further stigmatize transgender lifestyles with which its supporters don't agree. Ricardo Martinez, chief executive officer of Equality Texas, argued against the the bill while speaking with the Associated Press last week.

“This cruel and grotesque ban puts a target on the backs of transgender children and adults, erases intersex people and sends a clear message that transgender and intersex people aren’t welcome or safe in Texas,” Martinez said.

Republican-led legislators in more than 20 states have proposed bills limiting transgender participation in public schools. Texas joins Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas and Montana in passing such bills into law.

Critics characterize the bills as solutions without problems and argue that legislators can't point to instances in their states where girls have experienced unfair treatment or even competed against transgender athletes.

An Associated Press survey of legislators supporting such bills found that several couldn't cite an instance of a transgender girl's participation in sports existing or causing a problem in their states. Others pointed to a case in Connecticut that's received widespread attention and is often cited by supporters of bills limiting transgender rights.

Monday's is the latest controversial measure approved Abbott in recent months. In May, Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Earlier this month, Abbott signed an executive order outlawing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas, including those among private employers.

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