Democrats again delay Texas House debate on banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for trans kids

People line the railing on all three levels of the outdoor rotunda of the Texas Capitol in Austin, waving signs during the "Fight for our Lives" rally in opposition of bills targeting LGBTQ people in March. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.

Democrats have once again successfully delayed the Texas House’s vote on Senate Bill 14, which would ban transgender youth from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

During the Friday debate, Democrats quickly raised a succession of three points of order, a parliamentary procedure that aims to delay or kill legislation on a technicality. Less than an hour after Democratic state Rep. Mary González raised the third one, the bill was sent back to the House Public Health Committee. The Clint Democrat was also behind the point of order that delayed the Tuesday debate.

That interruption stopped Republican state Rep. Tom Oliverson, SB 14’s key sponsor in the House, from finishing his introduction of the bill on the chamber floor.

The Public Health Committee voted 6-4 Friday afternoon to advance the bill to the chamber floor. State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican who chairs the Calendars Committee, has tweeted that the bill will be “heard next week.”

“This bill is coming like a freight train at 50 miles an hour, and there is nothing they can do to stop it,” Oliverson said.

Trans Texans, their families and medical groups say transition-related care is critical to supporting the mental health of trans youth, who face higher risks of depression and suicide than their cisgender peers. They consider Senate Bill 14 one of the most consequential pieces of legislation this year. And with Texas being home to one of the largest trans communities in the country, such a ban could have an outsized impact.

The bill spurred protests that led to altercations with state police earlier this week. Before the House tried to start debate on the bill Friday, House Speaker Dade Phelan said he welcomes guests in the gallery but warned against disruptions.

Under the bill, kids already accessing treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy would have to be “weaned off” in a “medically appropriate” manner, the bill says. It also bans transition-related surgeries, though those are rarely performed on kids.

[“A death sentence”: Trans Texas teen plots his future as proposed ban on hormone therapy progresses]

SB 14’s supporters have challenged the research and science behind gender-affirming care. They say the legislation is an effort to save Texas families from health care providers who are cashing in on a “social contagion” and pushing life-altering treatments on kids who may later regret taking them.

But doctors and parents of trans kids say getting access to these treatments also takes time and plenty of medical evaluations. Parents are included in decisions about what treatments, if any, are best for individual children.

On Friday, LGBTQ Texans and their allies once again came to the Capitol to oppose the bill.

“The days [in the] Capitol like this are really difficult, but it’s also the most trans community I’ve ever been in,” Ash Thye, a trans college senior from Dallas who started hormone therapies at 16, said Friday prior to the vote. “We’re fighting for our fucking lives.”

Supporters of the bill, wearing red shirts with the words “save Texas kids” were also back in the gallery overlooking the chamber floor on Friday.

“I kind of get emotional because a lot of kids don’t have a voice, and I feel like I can be a voice for them,” said Lorelei Shafer, who brought her two children. “And my kids can show that — look, look at them — why would God create us just perfectly in his own image? Why would you want to destroy them?”

[Texas Republicans have filed dozens of bills affecting LGBTQ people. Here’s what they’d do.]

A recent poll from the University of Texas at Austin found that 58% of Texas voters support banning doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors. Another of its recent surveys from February shows that 59% of voters don’t personally know an openly trans person.

The bill is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Republican Party of Texas, whose platform opposes any efforts to recognize transgender identities. It and the other bills targeting LGBTQ people also come during a legislative session in which some conservative lawmakers, emboldened by the growing acceptance of Christian nationalism on the right, are pursuing bills they believe can create a national model for infusing Christianity into the public sphere.

The Senate has already passed a version of the bill and a majority of Texas House members support the legislation. If the bill becomes law, Texas will join over a dozen states in restricting transition-related care for minors. Several of those states are currently facing legal challenges from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

Renzo Downey contributed to this story.

Disclosure: Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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