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Bill to stop transgender athletes from participating in girls' sports passes the Ohio House

Track hurdle
Andrew McElroy

It was after 11 p.m. Wednesday when members of the Ohio House of Representatives voted to attach an unrelated, controversial amendment to a bill that provided resources and mentorship opportunities for new teachers.

That education bill had bipartisan support until the amendment, which would prevent trans athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, was added. After vigorous debate, Republicans voted for the bill, and Democrats voted against it.

Specifically, the bill would now require transgender female athletes to join male or co-ed teams. If someone questions a student's biological sex, they must get a signed statement from a doctor verifying it. Schools that violate the rules would be open to lawsuits.

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) told lawmakers the bill is needed because without it, transgender women would have an unfair advantage in winning athletic contests.

"Transgender women, if they have the same athletic training as biological women, have a much better shot at that trophy or that coffee cup or that scholarship," Schmidt said.

Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) said the bill is needed to protect the integrity of women's sports. She suggested another alternative for trans athletes.

“We seem to have different groups for everything. Why not a trans swim team? Why not a trans athletic team? Why do we always have to infringe on other people’s things?," Carruthers asked.

But several Democrats said the Ohio High School Athletic Association already has rules on this issue. Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) said there are no issues with trans athletes dominating in Ohio sports.

“This is not a real problem. This is a made up, let’s feed red meat to the base issue. It’s not a real problem. You know it’s not. I know it’s not. Not one high school kid in Ohio has this issue," Brown said.

Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin), an emergency room doctor, said the bill didn't make sense from a medical standpoint. She also said it would subject kids to undergo invasive tests to prove their gender.

"We have so many issues facing young people in our state. We've talked about school safety, mental health issues. I struggle to understand why we keep discussing bills focusing on children's genitals," Liston said.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but lawmakers there won’t be back until November. So the earliest the bill could be taken up is during the lame duck session after this fall’s election.

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.