The Republican-led Texas House voted Wednesday evening to advance House Bill 25, legislation that would ban trans youth from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
The bill passed 76-54 after several hours of amendments and heated debate on the House floor. It will now head to the Senate, where its passage is all but guaranteed considering the Senate version of the bill has already advanced out of the chamber.
If signed into law, a student’s sex on their birth certificate would be used to determine whether they could play on their desired male or female team.
Trans youth, their parents, and LGBTQ advocates have spent the last ten months of the forever-session protesting and testifying against the bill and its various incarnations — this is at least the fourth time the legislation has come before the house before being thwarted by Democrats on each occasion. More than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed since January, according to advocacy group Equality Texas.
Democrats introduced a number of amendments and parliamentary maneuvers to kill, soften or slow the bill’s advance. Rep. Mary González introduced an amendment to scrap the bill entirely, which she said put trans children at risk of suicide.
“None of us should want this seat more than we want their lives,” González said urging Republicans to accept the political risks and vote down the bill.
Lawmakers cited data from Trevor Project, a suicide prevention hotline for LGTBQ youth that has reported a 150 percent increase in crisis calls from young Texans.
During an emotional speech, Rep. Ann Johnson (D-Houston) spoke about the difficulty of growing up gay and coming out to her parents. “I let conversations like these keeping me from talking about my parents,” Johnson said.
Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) introduced an amendment to make the legislation apply only to interscholastic competitions and not practice or skirmishes.
“We’re not even talking about the game,” said Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) half-jokingly imitating Allen Iverson. “We’re talking about practice.”
Rep. James Talarico warned that the law would be unenforceable since birth certificates do not reflect any changes they may or may not have had. The El Paso Democrat said his birth certificate is no different than anyone else’s despite changing his own birth certificate to match his adoptive father’s last name.
“The only way you could determine if a child is trans is by inspecting their genitals or subjecting them to questions about their genitals,” Talarico said.
Celia Israel, a member of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus who recently announced her retirement to run for Austin mayor, said a toxic stew was taking over the state and county. She said she was heartbroken when Gov. Greg Abbott took down a suicide hotline for LGBTQ youths on the Department of Family and Protective Services website.
“We’re not protecting women, we’re not protecting girls, not tonight, not four years ago, it’s more games, we’re playing games with the people we live,” Israel said before telling members about her difficult teenage years.
“It’s worth saying again, that as a 17-year-old I very nearly ended my life, at a downtown hotel,” Israel said. “I remember thinking I’m going to throw myself and be done with the pain. You’re causing more pain tonight, we hope the courts will protect us, but the damage has been done.”
During her closing remarks, Rep. Ann Johnson left lawmakers with a warning about how the vote would weigh on them.
“I do love this body, and I don’t understand the predicament you are in politically,” Johnson said, “but if not tonight, when you go home and put your head on the pillow or when your grandbaby finds the courage to come out, or whoever it may be, at some point your heart will burst. And you will remember the vote you took tonight.”
Photo: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images