AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Despite days of protests and testimony from doctors, transgender people and their allies, Republican lawmakers in the Texas Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to two bills impacting transgender Texans and appear set to do the same for a third.
Together, the bills impose sweeping new restrictions on the rights of transgender Texans to access gender-affirming care, change their birth certificates and play in sports that match their gender identity.
The first measure to get the body’s final approval was Senate Bill 15, a ban preventing transgender college athletes from playing as their preferred gender on sports teams at public universities. Sponsored by Republican Mayes Middleton and 17 others, the bill marks the continuation of similar work done by lawmakers in 2021, when the Republican-controlled legislature enacted restrictions on transgender athletes in K-12 public schools.
Also passed Wednesday was Senate Bill 162 by Charles Perry, a Republican state senator from Lubbock. The bill prohibits changing the sex on a minor’s birth certificate to match the wishes of a transgender child.
Finally, lawmakers advanced but have not yet passed Senate Bill 14, a bill that would heavily restrict transgender minors' access to gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone therapies and gender confirmation surgeries. Physicians who violate the law face having their medical licenses revoked.
Republican talking points on these measures have focused on gender-affirming surgeries — which some, including far-right state representative Tony Tinderholt, have taken to calling “mutilations."
In fact, such surgeries are a last-ditch treatment when other, reversible treatments like social changes and puberty blockers haven’t improved a transgender patient’s quality of life. Doctors in Texas rarely if ever perform such surgeries on children, and surveys show that even most transgender adults don’t opt for them.
Treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapies are largely reversible, despite claims that they are not.
Senator Donna Campbell, a Republican from New Braunfels, is the bill’s author and a physician. As she laid out her bill before the full senate, Campbell claimed that such treatments are “unsafe, unhealthy, unethical and unacceptable.”
Campbell claimed gender dysphoria — the mental condition where an individual feels their biological sex and gender identity do not match — is temporary and should not be treated with permanent means.
She provided no evidence on the floor for her claims, which are out-of-step with the position of mainstream groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Texas Medical Association. Both groups say such care is safe and proven to help adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria.
Senate Bill 14 passed two procedural votes along party lines and is expected to get final passage as early as Thursday.
Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has listed both SB 14 and SB 15 as priorities for him, along with other bills that critics say also target LGBTQ+ people, including efforts to restrict drag shows and to remove from school libraries books that are deemed to be “obscene.”
Conversely, it's Senate Bill 14 and an identical House version, House Bill 1686, filed by Republican state representative Tom Oliverson, that have prompted the most concern from the transgender community.
Protests against those bills started in earnest around two weeks ago, when Senate Bill 14 first went before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs on March 16.
The committee recessed that day without advancing on either bill. When they reconvened last week, hundreds of activists gathered in front of the Texas Capitol to call for equal rights for transgender people.
“Protect trans kids,” a crowd chanted as they marched onto the Capitol grounds. “Y’all means all.”
Less than an hour after the rally concluded, the Senate state affairs committee advanced two of the anti-trans bills to the full Senate: SB 14 as well as SB 162, the birth-certificate law.