In this screen cap from the Senate Committee on Stat Affairs’ hearing on SB 15, Texas Freedom Network’s Adri Perez, at right, addresses lawmakers

The first anti-transgender piece of legislation is heard by Senate committee

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Friday, March 10, was the last day lawmakers could file new legislation for the 2023 regular session, and Equality Texas’ final “bad” bill count in the 88th Texas Legislature is 137 “bad bills” intended to take rights away from the LGBTQ community, compared to 135 “good” bills, intended to guarantee LGBTQ equality.

In a variation on the theme of punishing the physician for providing life-saving care to trans youth, a late-filed bill by state Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Tarrant County would prohibit trans care up until age 26. And state Rep. Bryan Slayton of Mineola wants to make sure that the state abortion ban targets transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive individuals in a bill filed just before the deadline.

Almost 30 bills propose a state constitutional amendment to enshrine the parental “right to direct the upbringing of their child,” including the right to “direct the care, custody, control, education, moral and religious training and medical care” of the child — Unless, that is, the state doesn’t like the religion you’ve chosen, if your morals are different than theirs or they disagreed with the type of medical care you may be providing for your trans child.

Most of these bills have a single author. House Bill 23 has dozens and will probably get a committee hearing.

Most of the thousands of bills filed in this session have been assigned to committees. SB 15 was the first of the “bad” bills to get a hearing. It would bar trans athletes from competing in college sports in Texas.

In the last special session of the 2021 legislature, conservative Republicans finally manage to pass a ban on trans athletes competing in K-12 sports.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs heard SB 15 on Monday evening, March 13. Speaking against it were trans college student Jacquelyn Murphy, nonbinary Equality Texas staffer Chloe Goodman and Texas Freedom Network Organizing Director Adri Perez, who is transgender.

“Bills like SB 15 perpetuate hate while heightening the levels of discrimination — and even outright violence — that transgender children and adults already experience in Texas,” Perez said. “We also know that the mere debate of bans like this has devastating consequences on the mental health of our community.”

The bill targets a relatively small minority of people — young trans athletes who are in college — and creates a problem where none has previously existed. There have been absolutely no complaints filed about trans athletes competing on a college level in Texas.

Participation by trans athletes in college sports is already addressed by national organizations that regulate college sports, which already have rules in place. SB 15 would put Texas schools out of compliance with those existing rules.

“This bill is not about safety or fair competition,” Perez said. “It’s about a relentless culture war started by politicians who want to create problems that do not exist, all to stoke fear and hate to ignite their base.”

Two additional bills were expected to be heard this week after press deadline. SB 162 would prohibit minors from changing their sex on their birth certificates. SB 885 would allow the state to terminate parental rights if the parent is providing medically necessary gender affirming care.

The Texas Legislature works on a timed deadline. With thousands of bills filed and certain items like the state budget required to pass, lawmakers won’t have time to hold hearings on every bill that has been introduced. But with so many anti-LGBTQ bills proposed, one or two of them may slip out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, two of the “good” bills also received hearings this week.

HB 1403 would begin pilot programs in major counties across the state aimed at “reducing the risk of certain infectious and communicable diseases.” If passed, HIV testing would be included with all standard STD tests.

HB 1157 would excuse school absences for mental health care appointments. While other bills seek to limit mental health care and even eliminate school counselors, this one facilitates that care for youth. The bill had a hearing on Monday and was left pending in committee.

Meanwhile in New York …
While we hear about one state after another passing laws attacking trans folk and drag queens, New York is going in a different direction. On Sunday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James joins state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, four members of the New York Assembly and six members of the New York City Council for Drag Story Hour at New York City’s LGBTQ The Center. Imagine what it would do for Dallas youth if Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton headed an all-star line-up at Resource Center.