The Texas Senate passed a bill on Thursday to ban transgender student-athletes at public schools from participating in sports with their preferred gender. 

Senate Bill 29 was approved in an 18-12 vote, with Republicans taking the majority, suggesting a mandate for athletes in Texas public high schools and elementary schools to use their biological gender when registering to participate in sports competitions. The bill is heading to the Texas House. 

The bill aims to prohibit transgender students from joining sports if their biological sex is the opposite of the gender the competition involves. By this, males-at-birth students will not be allowed to compete against female students even if they have decided to alter their gender identity and vice versa. Yet, girls could still join the boy’s sports competition under the condition of no available comparable female sport.

Students’ original and unamended birth certificates will define their gender in the sport registration process under the bill.

State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), the author of the bill, believed that the bill would protect female students from unfairness and extra injury if they have to compete against biologically more capable transgender rivals in interscholastic athletics.

“This is about protecting female athletes and recognizing their accomplishments within their biological peer group,” he said. “Female athletes deserve their place in the record books for all of their hard work and dedication. We should not take that away from them.”

Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), another Texan lawmaker who wishes to ensure fairness in sports competitions if transgender people were to participate in, introduced her own version called the Fair Play in Women’s Sports Act, saying, “I am proud to stand with our female athletes in Texas, and I refuse to abandon them. Biological males are free to compete in sports in Texas, but not in sports exclusively for girls.”

Meanwhile, all Democrats voted against Senate Bill 29. They and other opponents of the bill argued that the bill unnecessarily singles out transgender students who are more subjected to depression and suicidal thoughts due to their choice of gender. 

“They just want the same experience and life lessons that come as a result of playing sports: physical health and stress release, sportsmanship, team building, comradery, goal setting, self-discipline, leadership, confidence, a sense of belonging, lifelong friendships,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.

According to Forbes, the bill would affect several major college sports championships scheduled in the state in the upcoming years. NCAA has already threatened to pull championship events from Texas to put pressure against the legislation. 

The outlet pointed out that the state would lose the 2023 men’s Final Four in Houston, the 2023 women’s Final Four in Dallas, and the 2025 men’s Final Four in San Antonio if NCAA proceeds with its decision.

Likewise, several economics professors told Forbes that NCAA’s move would cost the state minimum revenue lost if the bill were adopted. However, they agreed that it at least has the impact of symbolism.

“The economic impact of NCAA playoffs is very, very small,” said Victor Matheson, who teaches courses in sports economics at College of the Holy Cross. 

“This is not primarily an economic story,” says Smith College’s Andrew Zimbalist. “This is a reputational story.”