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Ohio Senate overrides governor’s veto on trans healthcare & sports bans

Close up of doctor lab coat wearing a stethoscope and heart-shaped trans flag pin
Photo: Shutterstock

The Ohio Senate voted 24-8 on Wednesday to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of H.B. 68, a bill banning gender-affirming care for trans minors and trans women and girls from participating in scholastic sports. The override makes Ohio the 23rd state to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors and the 24th to ban trans sports participation.

While Ohio’s law is expected to go into effect in 90 days, on April 23, it will likely face a legal challenge, possibly delaying the law from going into effect. The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already pledged to “do everything we can to fight this.”

DeWine vetoed H.B. 68 on December 26, 2023, saying, “The government [doesn’t know] better what is medically best for a child [more] than the two people who love that child the most, their parents.” DeWine said he decided to veto the bill after visiting with parents of trans youth who are currently receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

“They told me their child is alive only because they received care,” DeWine said, according to WHMC. “These are gut-wrenching decisions that should be made by parents and should be informed by teams of doctors who are advising them. These are parents who have watched their children suffer for years.”

Agreeing with DeWine, the Ohio ACLU parked a truck outside of the Ohio statehouse on Wednesday with a message on its sides that said, “Health care decisions belong with patients, providers, & families.” In a follow-up tweet after the Senate’s vote, the organization wrote, “This is a shameful legislative act. We will do everything we can to fight this.”

The state’s leading LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Equality Ohio, also said it is looking into legal and legislative actions against the law. The state transgender advocacy group TransOhio said it has already spoken with 68 families and seven trans adults who requested emergency relocation funds to leave the state because of the new law.

“Their government is forcing them to uproot their lives,” TransOhio’s secretary Dara Adkison told NBC News. “They’re selling their homes, they’re changing jobs and careers and closing out all of their savings. They’re closing their businesses, they’re leaving their medical practices. The intense amount of personal and community trauma that is being inflicted by the government right now and putting these families through who just love their f**king kids is so cruel.”

The Ohio House of Representatives voted 65-28 to override DeWine’s veto on January 11.

The law will revoke the trans-inclusive policies of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), the body that oversees high school sports. The OHSAA’s policies allow trans women and girls to compete if they have completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment and/or demonstrated that they do not possess physical or physiological advantages over “genetic females of the same age group.”

OHSAA’s policy has allowed seven trans girls to play high school sports this school year.

“H.B. 68 would have a direct impact on the OHSAA’s transgender policy, which has been in place since 2015 and has served our member schools to provide participation opportunities for transgender students without putting biological females at a competitive disadvantage,” the association said.

DeWine also opposed the sports ban, stating, “This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations.”

While supporters of the bill said it was necessary to prevent trans women from unfairly “stealing” on-field victories and scholarships from cisgender girls, opponents said the bill purely sought to deny sports participation from trans teens who already face higher rates of isolation, stigma, and mental distress. Opponents noted that other policies – like better safeguards against harassment and sexual abuse of female student-athletes – would do more to help women’s sports.

“These legislators have abdicated their responsibility to do what’s right for the Ohioans they represent, casting votes that they know full well will harm innocent children, all to appease the leader of the MAGA agenda,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement.

“Despite the fact that they have no medical training, these politicians believe they know better than parents and transgender youth seeking health care,” Robinson continued. “It’s shameful. The legislature has repeatedly made clear it is out of step with the citizens of Ohio, and Ohioans have had enough. They have the opportunity this November not just to kick them out of office, but to begin the process for securing fair maps that accurately reflect the needs of the state.”

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