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Texas bill could keep transgender kids out of high school sports

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FILE -- The flag of the State of Texas flies atop a flag pole.

Should transgender kids be allowed to compete in high school sports?

Texas is poised to pass a bill that could bar them from participating.

The state Senate passed the bill Tuesday, and it could go before the House as soon as Wednesday.

It is the latest in a string of controversial measures that opponents say unfairly target LGBT people, immigrants and religious minorities.

The author of the bill regarding teen athletes says the legislation isn’t meant to target transgender students.

Sen. Bob Hall, a Republican from Edgewood, Texas, said he intends to keep students safe and competitions fair.

CNN reached out to Hall on Wednesday but has not heard back from him. However, The Texas Tribune quoted him as saying, “This bill is not addressing who plays on what sports. This bill is addressing individuals who … are taking steroids, then make sure, as a result of that, the events remain safe and fair.”

Steroids already banned, with ‘safe harbor’ exception

A Democratic senator, Sylvia Garcia of Houston, offered an amendment to spell out protections for transgender kids, but it was voted down.

“The real intent of the bill is to keep young transgender athletes from participating in sports,” Garcia told CNN. “We need to make sure they’re free to participate just like everybody else.”

State law already bans steroid use, but it allows a “safe harbor” exception for students using steroids prescribed by a doctor, Garcia said.

The new bill would eliminate that. It would let the state board that oversees high school sports disqualify those student-athletes if that board says their prescribed steroid use affects safety or fair play.

“All young people should have the opportunity to play interscholastic sports and have their personal dignity respected,” advocacy group Equality Texas said in a statement. “Transgender people are no different.”

The group said the state of Texas discriminates by letting kids play only according to the gender on their birth certificates.

It said six other states have similar policies.

‘Bathroom bill’ and more

Garcia said the new bill was filed in response to the case of Mack Beggs, a Texas transgender boy who was allowed to wrestle only against girls.

The bill is the latest in a series of headline-making efforts that Texas lawmakers have introduced this year. Critics have said the measures unfairly target not only transgender people but also gays and lesbians, religious minorities and immigrants.

“A lot of it has to do with the political climate,” Garcia said. “It seems that every year there is a new target.”

Here is the status of some other controversial measures:

• Religious adoption: The House passed a bill to let adoption agencies reject potential parents on religious objections, including gays, single people and anyone of a religion objectionable to the agency. The Senate will consider the bill. • Public restrooms: The so-called bathroom bill missed a key deadline in the House after passing the Senate. It would require people to use public restrooms based on the gender on their birth certificates. • Sanctuary cities: Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill banning sanctuary cities. It establishes criminal and civil penalties for local government entities and law enforcement that don’t comply with immigration laws and detention requests, the governor’s office said.

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