Eric Gay/AP
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks after signing a bill at the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
CNN  — 

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law Thursday barring transgender college athletes in the state from competing in sports that align with their gender identity – expanding a 2021 law that banned transgender students in K-12 Texas school districts and some charter schools from doing the same.

Abbott framed Senate Bill 15, titled the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” as designed to protect female athletes from unfair competition.

“Women’s sports are being threatened. Some women are being forced to compete against biological men,” he said during a signing event Thursday.

The new law, which takes effect September 1, allows individuals to sue institutions that allow trans athletes to compete on teams that align with their gender identity.

Limiting transgender athletes’ – particularly transgender women’s – ability to compete on sports teams that align with their gender identity has become a growing focus for some Republicans, with Alabama enacting restrictions last month, and the US House passing a similar ban in April.

Proponents of such restrictions have argued transgender women have a physical advantage over cisgender women, and that the regulations give female athletes equal opportunities to compete. However, there is little research on trans collegiate athletes. A 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine found “no direct or consistent research” on trans people having an athletic advantage over their cisgender counterparts.

Opponents say the restrictions are discriminatory.

“SB 15 is yet another harmful attack from anti-LGBTQ lawmakers on transgender Texans’ right to be embraced, accepted, and able to thrive — particularly in Texas’ public universities and colleges,” said Marti Bier with the Texas Freedom Network, which lobbies against conservative legislation and policies affecting education.

The new law comes after Abbott signed a ban on gender-affirming care for most minors in the state earlier this month, making Texas the largest state in the US to place restrictions on transgender youth’s access to critical care.

Both bans are part of a larger push by GOP-controlled assemblies across the US to place limits on transgender people, with the ACLU recording over 490 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced this session.