Protesters removed from Texas House as vote delayed on child gender modification ban

A bill to end child gender modification in Texas took a detour today as House Democrats utilized a procedural maneuver in an attempt to defeat the legislation.

Senate Bill (SB) 14 and its companion House Bill (HB) 1686 by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) have both received countless hours of debate and testimony in the preceding weeks. Activists on both sides of the aisle have voiced their opinion over banning children from receiving gender modification treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone drugs. 

Prior to the debate Tuesday, the Capitol halls were filled with activists and pro-gender modification protesters, some of whom poured into the chamber as the debate kicked off. The gallery was not without supporters of the bill, with a large contingent of attendees wearing bright red shirts that read “Save Texas Kids.” 

When Oliverson took the podium to lay out the bill, a point of order was called by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) that caused a wave of House members to rush the stand to discuss whether the analysis of the bill was misleading. A successfully called point of order, a commonly employed procedural maneuver in the Texas House, has the potential to kill the bill in question.

As the huddle at the speaker’s desk took place, the gallery erupted with pro-gender modification protesters chanting, “Trans rights are human rights,” and waving flags over the banister.

The Texas Department of Public Safety had already called additional officers in to monitor the situation, who were ushered in to escort the activists out. Multiple protesters then began to resist officers’ attempts to remove them from the chamber and had to be physically moved out. 

The point of order was announced to be successful due to a reporting error: the misnaming of a group that the bill analysis cited and was included as a supporting study. 

The bill analysis produced for the first committee hearing in the House included a clerical error. The error in question was in regards to a study from the “American College of Pediatricians” where in the analysis it is misnamed the “American College of Pediatrics.” 

SB 14 will now be sent back to the House Committee on Public Health before returning to the House floor for a second attempt at a vote. 

The conversation surrounding banning child gender modification focused on a variety of topics, including the definitions of “gender dysphoria” and “gender-affirming care.” Both supporters and opponents point to a wide breadth of research as justification for their particular stances on the issue. Recent polling shows that a majority of Texas voters do not support child gender modification interventions, with 88 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents opposed and 46 percent of Democratic voters in support.

A controversial version of the bill originally included an amendment that was passed and then revoked in the Senate after Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) received public backlash over its “grandfathering in” children already undergoing gender modification treatments to continue.

Oliverson took to social media to clarify his position on the amendment, stating, “[We] felt that the correct course of action was to allow treatment to continue in these limited cases. With the understanding that it could not progress to additional escalating treatments.” 

After the bill passed the Senate without its “grandfathering” amendment, Campbell commented, “I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Tom Oliverson, a fellow physician and author of the House companion bill, as well as all relevant stakeholders as this legislation works its way through the Texas House so we can get a bill to Governor Abbott’s desk as quickly as possible.”

Both bills have amassed relentless attention; HB 1686 endured public testimony past midnight that included hundreds of pro-gender modification protests, and Campbell’s bill in the Senate induced public conversation online from both supporters and opponents. 

The Texas Legislature has not succeeded at passing similar proposals in the past, as multiple bills banning child gender modification died in the House last session. 

With the error occurring on the analysis, and a sustaining of the point of order, SB 14 was sent back to the House Committee on Public Health. 

Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) made a motion to recommit the bill, which was set to be heard in a committee meeting at 4:30 p.m. today.

The bill has reportedly been voted back out of committee after the error was fixed. 

While the point of order was being considered, Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), chairman of the House Calendars Committee that determines which bills make it to the floor each day, tweeted, “The House will have SB14 on the floor later this week.” 

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