The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill banning transgender women and girls from participating in female school sports after three previous attempts failed, assuring Republican Governor Greg Abbott that he will go into effect.
Texas is now ready to join seven other states that passed similar laws this year, part of a national campaign in which Republican lawmakers introduced such laws in 32 states.
Conservatives say the law, which applies to public school teams up to high school, protects fair competition.
“We need a level playing field nationwide,” MP Valoree Swanson said during the debate.
Equality activists have said there is no evidence that trans women and girls dominate the sport.
Ricardo Martinez, executive director of LGBTQ human rights group Equality Texas, called the bill’s passage a “hateful, targeted attack on transgender people.”
Political analysts say the campaign is designed to animate hardcore Republican supporters.
“There is no evidence that there is a problem. That’s red meat for the grassroots,” said Robert Stein, a professor of political science at Rice University in Houston.
While the Texas Senate passed an accompanying bill, three previous versions of the bill stalled on the Public Education Committee, which has a Democratic chairman. Republicans then created a new version of the bill and sent it through a special committee they controlled, allowing it to pass through the entire House of Representatives late Thursday.
The bill has been returned to the Senate for procedural approval and is expected to reach Abbott’s desk.
Texas Republicans have passed a very conservative agenda this year, including new laws that make voting harder, ban abortions, and get permission to carry a hidden handgun.
“Like many other things in Texas politics right now, this sells itself mostly to very ideologically motivated voters in the Republican Party. These are the voters who appear in the Republican primaries,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia have passed similar transgender sports laws, and the governor of South Dakota signed an executive order. Some of them face legal challenges.
Idaho passed a similar law last year that was blocked by a federal court, and a federal court ruled in July that an 11-year-old trans girl from West Virginia could try for the girls’ track and cross-country teams at her school.