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Ohio House passes bans on transgender health care and sports

 Ohio House considers bills during its session
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio House considers bills during its session.

Ohio lawmakers passed a trio of controversial proposals Wednesday that change education standards, limit the types of medical treatment transgender children can receive and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s teams. The bills now go to the Senate for passage.

House Bill 8

The sponsors of House Bill 8, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” say it requires teachers to share health information about students with their parents, even if the teacher suspects that information would result in abuse or neglect.

Democrats refer to the bill as Ohio’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

But teachers, Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati) said, do not have the right to withhold that information from parents.

“I hear that this bill is a solution looking for a problem. Well I don’t agree with that because we continue to hear reports of teachers who may be planning to subversively teach these kinds of issues, quietly teach explicit sexuality subjects and help transition students without their parents' knowledge,” Bird said.

Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) calls the bill “a hateful attack on Ohio’s teachers and our children, especially those in the LGBTQ community.”

“This legislation is too broad and it will create dangerous outcomes that lack the censorship of experienced educators and continue to drive good teachers, great teachers, out of our state,” Miranda said.

House Bill 6 and House Bill 68

Both House Bill 6 and House Bill 68 were recently rolled into one bill. Hundreds of people on both sides of the aisle have come to the Statehouse during the past year to voice their positions on these measures.

House Bill 68, known as the SAFE Act, would ban hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery on children under 18 years old, regardless of whether their parents or physicians support the treatment. Its sponsor, Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), knows his bill is controversial.

“Many people try to make this bill into an argument over the culture wars,” Click said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about medical ethics.”

But Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin), an obstetrician, said this bill is not medically sound. It does not allow doctors and parents to treat transgender kids with the best therapies possible, she said, noting puberty blockers can be reversed. And, she added, hormones can be prescribed for children for reasons other than gender affirming care.

Earlier this week, a federal judge blocked a similar law in Arkansas, saying the state violated the U.S. constitution by banning gender-affirming treatment for people under 18.

“For those of you who believe in fiscal responsibility and not wasting taxpayers’ money, I would advise you to oppose this bill,” Somani said.

Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), who voted for the bill, said he’s not too worried about the possibility that it might be unconstitutional.

“That’s one of the things that I thought was very important is that we do everything we can to make sure when we have a bill that ... people feel so strongly about on either side, that we have it legally tight,” Stephens said. “We have done it in a way that will survive legal scrutiny because you don’t want to have the bill you vote for get thrown out by the courts.”

House Bill 6, the Save Women’s Sports Act, is sponsored by Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum). She said it makes sure girls are not discriminated against.

“Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is a discriminatory policy that turns back the clock over a half century on advances we have made for women,” Powell said.

Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) lambasted Republicans who backed the HB 6 and HB 68-combined bill as "anti-liberty lawmakers."

"Their view of 'government knows best' means greater life struggles and poorer outcomes for transgender adolescents," Skindell said.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said she’s deeply disappointed with the passage of these bills. She called them hostile and said they are “state sponsored discrimination and bigotry.” The legislation, Russo said, is a slap in the face to LGBTQ Ohioans, especially during PRIDE month.

“I think it is targeting those particular youth because it is politically convenient,” Russo said.

The bills now go to the Ohio Senate. That chamber passed a similar bill banning trans athletes from participating in women’s sports last year.

Though there are only a few days left in the session before summer break, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the bills could be considered when lawmakers return in the fall.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.