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Ohio's Republican-backed 'bathroom bill' gets an update and another hearing, but no vote

An "all gender restroom" sign at a public restroom
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Shutterstock
An "all gender restroom" sign at a public restroom

A Republican-backed bill that says K-12 and higher education institutions in Ohio must require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates got some slight changes Wednesday. Ohio's latest "bathroom bill", which is entitled the "Protect All Students Act", wasn’t voted out of a House committee, but there was still a lot of debate over the purpose of the bill.

Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) said one of the changes in House Bill 183 includes a redefinition to align it with the vetoed bill that got support from the House Wednesday. That bill bans gender transition treatment for minors and trans youth on girls’ sports teams.

“'Redefine' means the definition of biological sex to the definition used in House Bill 68. It specifies that the institution cannot knowingly permit," Bird told the committee. "We added the word 'knowingly'. It requires clear signage.”

The bill would also ban K-12 schools and public and private colleges and universities from allowing multi-use bathrooms to be gender neutral.

Democrats asked questions about the need for the bill and whether it would survive a legal challenge. Similar "bathroom bills" in other states have not.

"The vast majority of courts have ruled that excluding transgender students from using facilities consistent with their gender identities is, in fact unlawful discrimination," noted Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester).

"This issue is about protecting young men, young women, boys and girls, all young men, young women, boys and girls," said Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena), a joint sponsor of the bill. "It's more important that we act on their behalf than that we take into consideration something that is a complete violation of the intent of Title IX was never created for this purpose, and there are courts that agree with us on that issue."

Title IX is a federal law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities.

"How do you plan on enforcing this? Do you plan on having students carry their birth certificate before they go to the bathroom?" asked Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus).

"The penalty would be up to the policy writer in that school and an institute of higher ed. And so what this bill says is, especially for for institutes of higher ed, they shall not knowingly permit," Bird said. "And so that to me says that you're not going to post a guard at the restroom. But once you know about it because someone has complained about it, then you as a administrator of that school, you are tasked with doing something about it."

“This bill doesn't prescribe to the to the educational institute what the punishment is going to be. That's on them to write that," Bird said.

“That sounds dangerous," Abdullahi responded.

The hearing also featured statements that angered opponents of the bill. Lear said she's concerned that "so many in our culture are lying to children and telling them that they can change who they are" and compared gender affirming treatment to having a child who thinks he’s a bird and suggesting a doctor would say, "why don't you jump off and see if you can fly?"

"I just take offense to you comparing transgender people to people imagining their other species or things like that," said Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson). "I just I find that personally very offensive and I think many people across the state would agree with me."
 
The committee agreed on the changes but didn't vote on the bill.

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Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.