COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio House of Representatives passed two anti-LGBTQ+ bills on Wednesday, banning trans athletes from participating in girls’ sports, prohibiting trans youth from receiving certain medical care and altering how teachers can discuss the LGBTQ+ community.
House Bill 68, the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” passed with a vote of 64 to 28 out of the Ohio House and House Bill 8, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” passed with a vote of 65 to 29. The bills passed during a marathon session at the House on Wednesday, when lawmakers debated and voted on 10 pieces of legislation.
“Pride Month is a time of respecting liberty and civil rights,” said Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) during the session on Wednesday. “June 2023 in Ohio will be remembered how the Ohio House of Representatives demonstrated outright hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community.”
Now, each bill will be up for consideration in the Senate. Here’s how they could impact Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community.
Transgender athlete and healthcare ban
HB 68 would ban healthcare professionals from providing treatment known as gender-affirming care to trans children in the state, and requires mental health professionals to screen patients for abuse and comorbidities before diagnosing gender dysphoria.
“What we’re just simply saying is, let kids grow up,” said Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), who reintroduced the bill in February after the legislation failed to pass Ohio’s General Assembly last year. “Children are incapable of providing the informed consent necessary to make those very risky and life-changing decisions.”
The Ohio Children’s Hospital Association previously called the bill a “misguided effort” that could exacerbate harm to LGBTQ+ youth. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical providers have said gender-affirming care is an evidence-based practice with a proven track record of improving health outcomes for trans youth.
“HB 68 overrides individual choice and parental decision making,” said Skindell on Wednesday. “This governmental interference denies transgender youth the liberty of having a higher standard of medical and mental healthcare.”
Representatives amended the legislation to include House Bill 6, named the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” The bill would bar trans girls from taking part in female athletics and override the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s trans student-athlete policy adopted during the 2015-16 school year.
Nineteen trans girls — 10 in middle school and nine in high school — have participated in girls’ sports since the OHSAA’s policy was implemented eight years ago, including the six trans high school students taking part during the 2022-23 school year.
The OHSAA, which said about 400,000 athletes in grades 7-12 participate in its sanctioned sports each school year, asserts its policy is effective in protecting the integrity of girls’ sports while also providing participation opportunities for trans students.
“We will continue to educate people on the OHSAA’s transgender policy, which has been successfully implemented for the last eight years and has not resulted in any loss of female participation, championships or scholarship opportunities in Ohio,” the OHSAA said.
Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and 30 Republican co-sponsors reintroduced the bill in February after the legislation also failed to pass Ohio’s General Assembly last year. Powell said 21 other states have passed a similar bill and argues the legislation will facilitate fair competition.
“All that girls are asking for is a fair shot, and to be given the chance to play and win by the rules in the sports that they love,” Powell said. “That opportunity is being ripped from them by biological males.”
The legislation allows an athlete to sue for relief or damages if they are “deprived” of an athletic opportunity by a trans girl, and prohibits a government or athletic association from taking action against schools that enforce the ban.
Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin) said the legislation furthers misinformation regarding gender-affirming care and will ostracize trans youth. Somani also noted a similar Arkansas law banning trans healthcare was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
“Trans women who are on estrogen, their testosterone levels drop within six months,” said Somani. “It is not an absolute that trans women will always beat cisgender women. That’s a misconception.”
Parents’ Bill of Rights
HB 8 would require teachers to notify parents before teaching “sexuality content” and of any change in a student’s mental, emotional or physical health. Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) reintroduced the bill earlier this year after that legislation also failed to pass Ohio’s General Assembly last year.
“The Parents’ Bill of Rights is about informing parents that, yes, you get to know more about your child’s learning, and we are not keeping you out,” said Carruthers before the bill passed on Wednesday. “Many parents right now feel unwelcomed and disenfranchised and that is what the bill is targeting.”
Lawmakers altered the legislation to swap the term “sexually explicit content” in the bill to “sexuality content,” defined as “any oral or written instruction, presentation, image or description of sexual concepts or gender ideology.” The bill also requires schools to inform parents of a student’s request “to identify as a gender that does not align with the student’s biological sex.”
“HB 8 is a hateful attack on Ohio’s teachers and our children, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community,” said Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park). “My colleagues have introduced a piece of legislation that they believe will stop teachers from saying gay in classrooms and force educators to out their students.”
The legislation would provide parents the opportunity to request excusal for their child from lessons, and parents whose concerns aren’t resolved after 30 days would be granted a hearing with the district’s board of education. HB 8’s proponents argue the bill’s intention is not to prohibit instruction, but rather to provide parents the opportunity to review the material to determine whether their child should be provided alternative coursework.
“There’s nothing in this bill that prohibits the teaching of a subject,” said Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati). “There’s nothing in here that doesn’t say that you can’t teach a certain issue.
Still, Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid) spoke on Wednesday about his two moms and if he would have been able to discuss them in school had this bill been a law when he was a student. Forhan’s parents married in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is legal, he said.
“I would ask you, if House Bill 8 had been in effect when I was in school, with my teachers, would I have been able to talk about my family?” said Forhan. “When [my children] are in school, will they be able to talk about their grandparents?”