In what could be a major blow to transgender rights, Ohio conservatives are promoting a bill that would require teachers and others to disclose any incidents of a child demonstrating “a desire to be treated in a manner opposite the child’s biological sex” or exhibiting any signs of gender dysphoria.
House Bill 558 would make it a fourth-degree felony if any “government entity” – including schools – provided any treatment without consent of parents or guardians. Treatment is defined broadly, covering everything from therapy to educational materials.
“No government agent or entity shall purposely or knowingly authorize or provide gender dysphoria treatment for a child without the written, informed consent of each of the child’s parents and the child’s guardian or custodian,” reads a portion of HB 658.
A fourth degree felony in Ohio would have a sentence range of 6 to 18 months in prison, and is on the same level as unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and grand theft of a motor vehicle.
The bill also prevents courts from making any custody decisions based on either parent disallowing a child from undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria.
Representative Tom Brinkman, one of the two Republican legislators behind this bill, was inspired by a Cincinnati case where a transgender child was removed from their parents to live with grandparents. The parents had refused to allow their child to seek hormone replacement therapy.
“HB 658 codifies into the law what we’ve always known: parents have a fundamental right to decide what is best for their children,” said Brinkman during testimony to the Community and Family Advancement Committee on the 20th of June.
The case that inspired Brinkman is one where the child, a teenager, emailed a crisis hotline seeking help, as one of their parents had suggested they kill themselves. They also refused therapy for the child, except a “Christian-based” program.
Transgender activists in Ohio are working hard to lobby against the bill.
“The state policing of behavior opens a can of worms, states Equality Ohio in a release on their website. “Who is the judge of which gender is allowed to do what? If Jane signs up for shop class, will her parents receive a government letter? If Jordan doesn’t want to play football, do his parents get a letter? What if Alex wants to attend a meeting of the student LGBTQ group – does the school email that to Alex’s parents?”
The bill remains in committee at the time of this article.