North Texas Daily

Gov Abbott signs trans athlete ban at TWU as protesters rally

Gov Abbott signs trans athlete ban at TWU as protesters rally

Gov Abbott signs trans athlete ban at TWU as protesters rally
August 07
20:02 2023

Gov. Greg Abbott held a ceremonial signing Monday at Texas Woman’s University for a law prohibiting transgender women from competing in female collegiate teams as Denton citizens gathered in protest of the bill.

Senate Bill 15, also known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, was officially signed in June by Gov. Abbott after passing the Texas Senate in a vote of 19-12. The ceremony was held in Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on TWU Campus, where several state representatives and college athletes attended the signing, including political activist and former college athlete Riley Gaines.

“Everyone needs to fully comprehend what these women and other women have been through, and that Texas will stop at nothing to continue to protect women’s sports for women in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

During the signing, Abbott said SB 15 shared similarities to House Bill 25, a law passed in 2021 requiring high school athletes to provide birth certificates proving their biological sex to compete. HB 25 and SB 15 are part of a national trend from state legislators, with 22 states having legislative bans on transgender athletes in either K-12 institutions or collegiate athletics, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Four of the 22 states have temporary injunctions blocking the bans.

Denton citizens hold signs and protest Senate Bill 15 behind TWU’s Blagg-Huey Library on Aug. 8, 2023. Ismael M. Belkoura

Over 100 protestors gathered outside the hall to protest the governor’s event, bringing signs and flags with messages both in support of transgender rights and against the governor. Several local public figures were present, including District Two City Councilperson Brian Beck.

“I think it shows that this community is serious about being welcoming, inclusive, and that it doesn’t support the kind of legislation that SB 15 represents,” Beck said. “It sends a message that you’re in Denton, and in Texas Woman’s University we’re not going to mask bigotry.” 

Protestors confront State Sen. Kelly Hancock and other attendees walking out of TWU’s Blagg-Huey Library on Aug. 8, 2023. Ismael M. Belkoura

Protestors yelled and chanted slogans such as “Your hate kills” as attendees and government officials left the hall after the signing. Some protestors said they attended not just to protest the law but to show solidarity with the community. 

“I do think visibility is important and I think feeling like you are not an isolated person who has a perspective that isn’t shared by others — that can be difficult,” said Agatha Beins, Denton resident and TWU associate professor. “So understanding they’re part of a community as well is important.”

SB 15 is the second piece of legislation that passed this Texas Legislative Session restricting the rights of transgender people. Senate Bill 14 restricted gender-affirming care for Texas citizens under the age of 18, including the use of puberty blockers. 

Protesters gather outside Blagg-Huey Library at Texas Women’s University following the ceremonial signing at Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 7, 2023. Madeleine Moore

Gaines was a collegiate swimmer who tied for fifth place with Lia Thomas, the first openly transgender woman to win a Division I sport in the NCAA. Gaines has since become a political advocate and is currently spokeswoman for Independent Women’s Voice, who partnered with Abbott for the event. 

“Make no mistake about it — by allowing male athletes to displace female athletes in the pool or on the track and field, or on that podium, the NCAA and its member colleges intentionally discriminate on the basis on sex,” Gaines said.

Both Gaines and Abbott maintained that the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports teams violated Title IX restrictions, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

“We need to get back to what we intended to achieve when Title IX was passed in the first place,” Abbott said. “Title IX exists and we support it because we support the benefits that we see, every day, every year, from women who train and compete in sports, and the positive effect it has in their lives.”

SB 15 will go into effect on Sept. 1.

Featured Image: Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 7, 2023. Madeleine Moore

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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