News (USA)

GOP amendment attacking Obamacare has been turned against them to protect trans rights

A person holding a sign reading protect trans lives
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The ACLU of Ohio has filed a lawsuit alleging that a Republican-backed amendment to the state constitution makes the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth unconstitutional.

Republicans passed the amendment in 2011 as part of their efforts to block the Affordable Care Act. In an attempt to combat a portion of the legislation that requires most Americans to have health insurance, it states that no law at the federal, state, or local level can “compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in a health care system.”

But another line of the amendment declares, “No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.” In their suit, attorneys from the ACLU of Ohio argue that gender-affirming care falls under the definition of health care and thus, folks cannot be penalized for obtaining it based on this constitutional guarantee.

Among other violations, the lawsuit also argues that Ohio’s ban on gender-affirming care violates the state constitution’s single-subject rule, which says individual bills must only cover one subject. The health care ban not only prohibits gender-affirming care for trans minors but also bans trans women and girls from participating in scholastic sports.

In January, the Ohio Senate voted 24-8 to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of the legislation, H.B. 68.

State Sen. Kristina Roegner (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, stated before the vote that “there is no such thing as a gender spectrum” and “no such thing as gender-affirming care” because “you can’t affirm something that doesn’t exist.” She accused hospitals of forcing gender-affirming care on kids to make money, though major medical associations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) called the legislation “a cold, callous, and calculated attack on children, parents, and families.”

State Rep. Jessica E. Miranda (D) said the GOP is “literally killing our children” with the bill.

“All to win your Republican primary races,” she said. “Disgusting.”

The bill is set to take effect on April 24. After it passed, trans advocacy group TransOhio said dozens of families contacted them seeking emergency relocation funds to flee the state.

The ACLU of Ohio filed the lawsuit on behalf of two families with trans children.

“We refuse to allow lawmakers to move forward with these cruel restrictions that directly harm transgender young people,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, in a statement.

“Families are now confronted with the extremely difficult decision of fleeing the state they call home to protect their children or allowing them to go without the care they and their doctors know is right for them. H.B. 68 is government overreach point blank, and we are determined to reinstate Ohio families’ right to make personal medical decisions with healthcare providers – not politicians.”

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