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Gov. Greg Abbott says he supports legislation banning transgender athletes from competing in college sports

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Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday said he would back legislation banning transgender student athletes from competing on a collegiate level.

“This next session, we will pass a law prohibiting biological men to compete against women in college sports,” Abbott said at the Young America’s Foundation Freedom conference in Dallas. He made the comments during an interview billed as a “fireside chat” with former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

State lawmakers in 2021 passed legislation that restricted transgender student athletes from playing on K-12 school sports teams that align with their gender identity. But Abbott has previously demurred extending such restrictions to college athletes. When asked at a Kingwood Tea Party event in October 2021 if he would implement limitations on transgender college athletes, Abbott did not directly answer the question.

Republican lawmakers have already filed two bills – Senate Bill 649 and House Bill 23 – this legislative session that would target transgender students’ sports participation at colleges and universities.

The bills restricting transgender college athletes could open the door to a political fight. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors, which oversees the main governing body for college sports, has long prioritized the inclusion of transgender student athletes in their competitions. At least 20 Texas universities compete in NCAA competitions, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University and Texas A&M University.

In 2021, the NCAA board announced it will only hold championships where transgender student athletes can participate without discrimination.

The NCAA’s participation policies currently require transgender student athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections.

The 2021 legislation around K-12 sports prompted amendments to rules from the University Interscholastic League, which governs primary and secondary school sports in Texas. The UIL had previously accepted legally modified birth certificates in which someone may have had their sex changed to align with their gender identity.

In recent sessions, Republican lawmakers have targeted transgender people as a means to shore up appeal among social conservatives, beginning with the 2017 special legislative session, when they made an unsuccessful play to limit transgender people from using public and school bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. This session, conservatives are also trying to criminalize gender-affirming care and restrict lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Credit: by Sneha Dey, Texas Tribune

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