Brittney Griner, Layshia Clarendon pen op-ed speaking out against Texas bill that would diminish protection of LGBTQ

WNBA players Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon have published an op-ed speaking out in opposition to Texas Senate Bill 3.

"SB3" would regulate multiple occupancy bathroom access, including locker rooms, based upon birth certificate and additional government-issued identification documents for public agencies and school districts.

"SB3 would make it impossible for cities and school districts to proactively protect LGBTQ people in restrooms, locker rooms, and other changing facilities," Griner and Clarendon wrote. "As written, it would also take away existing protections that millions of LGBTQ Texans have in cities such as Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio."

Those four cities, as well as Plano, currently have city ordinances that protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Fort Worth Independent School District, or ISD, enacted a policy in April 2016 that required school employees to affirm the identity of transgender students. Should SB3 become law, policies like that of the Fort Worth ISD will be preempted and nullified.

SB3 also bars "a person whose birth certificate states their sex as male" from competing in "athletic activities designated for a person whose birth certificate states their sex as female."

LGBTQ advocates, including Griner and Clarendon, interpret SB3 as an attack on transgender athletes.

"Texas would be subjecting trans athletes to harassment, bullying and possible assault," they wrote. "While we do not identify as transgender, we know what it feels like to be singled out for not fitting neatly into social norms. We have often been subjected to scrutiny and harassment for our gender expression."

"The belief that transgender women and girls should be barred from participating in women's sports is rooted in discriminatory gender-based assumptions and stereotypes that have been widely rejected by the majority of sports research and policy experts," The Women's Sports Foundation, Human Rights Campaign and Transathlete.com wrote in a combined letter to the members of the Texas Legislature. "Relying on the most current understanding of human development and sports science, governing bodies have been able to craft trans-inclusive policies that ensure competitive fairness and inclusion -- two core values of sport."

The University Interscholastic League (UIL), which governs Texas high school athletics, enacted a policy in Feb. 2016 -- and which took effect Aug. 1, 2016 -- that requires athletes to participate in sports in accordance with their birth certificate. It was under this policy that Mack Beggs, a transgender boy, won the girls' high school state wrestling championship earlier this year.

The Texas Legislature was called back for a special session following the conclusion of the regular session to consider 20 agenda items put forth by Governor Greg Abbott. Among the items was a request to address "privacy," under which, proponents of SB3 say, the bill fits.

"I've always said that SB3 is about privacy," SB3 author and Texas Senator Lois Kolkhorst said in a phone interview. "This is a women's rights issue. It will filter through all of our lives and our intimate spaces, but ultimately it's going to impact women's sports."

SB3 passed the Texas Senate on July 25 by a vote of 21-10 after more than five hours of debate. The bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing, the first step in the approval process, in the Texas House.

"I'm a proud Texan who stands for equality and I see an injustice about to happen there," Griner said of why she decided to speak out. "Texas is big in the sports world. But these anti-LGBT actions undermine what sports is all about -- fair play, equality and inclusion."

Added Clarendon: "I refuse to sit back and let women's athletics be used as a vessel to discriminate against the transgender community. My hope is that more people in the sports world will see this op-ed and speak out as well."