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Some say the Ohio bill that would ban transgender athletes from girls' sports teams goes too far

Demonstrators outside the Ohio Statehouse showing support for transgender kids as a House committee hears a Republican backed bill to ban gender affirming treatments for minors under 18.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Demonstrators outside the Ohio Statehouse showing support for transgender kids as a House committee hears a Republican backed bill to ban gender affirming treatments for minors under 18.

Late Wednesday night, as the first day of Pride Month came to a close, majority Republicans in the Ohio House passed a bill that would require K-12 schools as well as public and private colleges to “designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.” The provision was added to an education bill that aimed to provide resources and mentorship opportunities for new teachers. The text of the amendment had not been made widely available until the amendment was inserted, and the bill had widespread bipartisan support. After the amendment was attached, all of the Democrats who were inside the House chambers voted no on the bill.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) said there are about 400,000 Ohio high schoolers participating in sports right now, and only one transgender athlete on a girls' sports team. There are three transgender athletes competing at the middle school level. OHSAA hasa policyin place to make sure transgender athletes who participate on a girls’ team do not have physical advantages. The policy has been in place for seven years now. Fewer than a dozen transgender athletes have participated in sports programs overseen by the OHSAA during that time.

Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) is a medical doctor who voted against the bill.

“This is truly bizarre medically and non-sensical,” Liston said.

Liston noted the bill would allow anyone – a disgruntled parent, player or someone looking for competitive advantage - to question a player as transgender. That player would be required to have a doctor evaluate her external and internal genitalia, testosterone levels, and genetic makeup. The findings would then need to be reported back to the school so they could clear the athlete to play on the team. That process could take weeks. Liston was visibly disgusted with the proposed amendment as she urged lawmakers to stay out of this issue.

"I struggle to understand why we keep discussing bills focusing on children's genitals," Liston said.

Democrat Phil Robinson (D-Solon) said he supported the original intent of the bill that would have given teachers mentoring and support, but he said adding this amendment, without having public hearings or testimony on it, was wrong and unnecessary.

"This is an issue searching for a problem that doesn't exist," Robinson said.

Robinson pointed out that the Ohio House did the exact same thing a year ago when it attached similar legislation to a bill allowing college athletes the right to earn money from their name, image and likeness (NIL). The Senate circumvented that effort and put in place another piece of legislation that allowed the NIL part of the bill to move forward.

Robinson also said federal courts have blocked similar legislation on transgender athletes that have passed in other states. He said collegiate organizations are already on record as saying they will pull big events from Ohio if this goes through. Robinson estimated that would be a $300 million to $400 million dollar loss per year to the state.

Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) said this bill is politically motivated.

“This is not a real problem. This is a made-up, 'let’s feed red meat to the base' issue," Brown said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) said it’s necessary to protect the integrity of girls' sports.

“This bill ensures that every little girl who works hard to make it on a podium is not robbed of her chance by a 'biological male' competing against her in a 'biological female' sport," Powell said.

This language also affects co-ed sports. Rep. Jennifer Gross noted the bill also keeps girls from playing on boys' teams too.

"It simply requires that each school that participates in athletic competitions to designate separate single-sex athletic teams based on the sex of the participants," Gross explained.

After the marathon House session was over, House Speaker Bob Cupp was asked about why this amendment was added, literally at the 11th hour.

In the end, the bill passed the Ohio house with majority Republicans voting for the bill, and Democrats voting against it. The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate, but no movement on the legislation is expected anytime soon. There are currently no House or Senate sessions scheduled on the calendar until after the November 3 election later this year.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.