AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Transgender Texans and their allies attempted all kinds of maneuvers in their efforts to kill a proposed statewide ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
They protested. They testified. Democratic lawmakers used procedural tactics, including raising “points of order” questioning technical aspects of the law.
They were surprisingly effective, twice forcing bill sponsors to delay a vote — but in the end, and in Republican-dominated Texas, it wasn’t enough to kill such a hot-button culture-war issue. Senate Bill 14 passed a second floor vote on Friday along largely party lines.
The final vote count was 92-48, suggesting some of the body's 64 Democrats voted for it — though at press time on Thursday, the vote has not yet been certified.
From here, SB 14 will face smooth sailing, at least procedurally. After final votes, it will head to the desk of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it.
Abbott, after all, has declared gender-affirming care to be child abuse, last year ordering the state child-welfare agency to investigate families providing such care. Texas Child Protective Services has opened at least 15 such investigations, and some CPS workers have resigned in protest.
Even before this legislative session, transgender Texans were regularly showing up at public meetings to urge that agency to end the investigations. Now, as a full legal ban in Texas appears almost certain, many Texas families with transgender children are plotting out new lives in friendlier states.
Mitch Tillison lives in the Dallas-area with his wife, son and transgender daughter. He previously told Courthouse News that he planned to take his daughter to New Mexico if SB 14 passed, so that she could continue receiving care.
Tillison spent much of Friday watching the debate in the legislature. In an interview shortly after the vote, he said the whole family would soon be moving to Washington state.
"It's time to go," Tillison said. He was concerned not only about SB 14 but about growing hatred and violence towards transgender people and other minorities — including what he saw as an excessive response by Capitol police against trans protesters last week — and the effects all of it was having on him and his family. Untold numbers of other Texas families are now finding themselves in the same position.
SB 14 mirrors similar bills seen in other states, and particularly Republican ones. More than two dozen states have already passed or are currently considering similar measures, according to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group.
SB 14 also mirrors a broader nationwide culture war over LGBTQ+ issues, in which hardline cultural conservatives have lobbed incendiary claims about LGBTQ+ people allegedly "grooming" and "mutilating" children. A slate of other proposed bills in Texas this year also targets transgender civil rights and LGBTQ+ free expression, including proposed restrictions on drag queens and allegedly obscene books.
The Texas Legislature meets every other year. Efforts to kill or weaken SB 14 started early this session.
For weeks, thousands of Texans turned out to protest against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and testify to lawmakers. In March, protesters staged a late-night "die-in" at the Texas Capitol after a Texas House committee hearing SB 14 cut off testimony around midnight — depriving trans Texans and their loved ones, some of whom had waited all day to speak, of their chance to testify.
Supporters of SB 14 have also made regular appearances at the Capitol. Among them were invited witnesses like Quentin Van Meter, an anti-trans doctor who once advocated for conversion therapy, and people in ubiquitous red "Save Texas Kids" shirts provided by the American Principles Project, a right-wing lobbying group that purports to be "America's Top Defender of the Family."