Watch a previous NBC4 report on Ohio’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the video player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio lawmakers are holding hearings this week for two anti-LGBTQ+ bills, the first to limit drag queen performances and the second to ban transgender minors from receiving certain healthcare and from taking part in female athletics.
House Bill 245 to ban “adult cabaret performances” is receiving its first hearing at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee. Then, House Bill 68 — the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act” — is receiving its fifth hearing at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Ohio Senate Government Oversight Committee.
House Bill 183, to prohibit schools from allowing trans students to use a bathroom that doesn’t correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth, was also scheduled to have its first hearing at the Statehouse on Tuesday. However, the Ohio House Higher Education Committee announced on Monday the meeting had been canceled.
“This isn’t a coincidence. It’s revenge,” said Kathryn Poe, a Policy Matters Ohio researcher, on social media, noting the bill’s hearings come one week after Ohio voters approved measures to establish the right to abortion in the state constitution and legalize recreational marijuana.
How could H.B. 245 impact Ohio’s drag queens?
Lawmakers introduced H.B. 245 in July to ban “adult cabaret performances,” defined as a show “harmful to juveniles” that features “entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performers’ or entertainers’ gender assigned at birth.” The bill would prohibit these shows in all locations other than “adult cabarets,” meaning “a nightclub, bar, juice bar, restaurant, bottle club or similar establishment.”
Reps. Josh Williams (R-Sylvania) and Angela King (R-Celina) are proposing the bill with the support of 41 out of 67 Ohio House Republican representatives. The 43 lawmakers outline the following penalties if entertainers are found violating the proposed law:
- A misdemeanor of the first degree if a performance occurs in the presence of a juvenile under the age of 18.
- A felony of the fifth degree if the performance is “obscene.”
- A felony of the fourth degree if the performance is “obscene” and occurs in the presence of a juvenile under the age of 13.
Williams said the bill’s intention is to modernize Ohio’s revised code regarding obscenity viewed by minors, not to effectively ban drag in Ohio. The lawmaker stressed that the proposed measure only means to prohibit shows “harmful to juveniles,” with events like drag story time readings and plays like “Mrs. Doubtfire” covered under the First Amendment.
“We’re saying, look, we want equality for all, we want everyone to be treated equally in the state of Ohio, that includes our entertainers,” he said. “You’re going to be held to the same standard, which is don’t engage in obscene conduct in the presence of a minor.”
Blonde Vanity, a Columbus-based drag queen, said performers in Ohio are altering their acts to be viewed as less perverse in the wake of H.B. 245. Vanity noted the proposal is modeled after a Tennessee law ruled “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” by a federal judge and said the measure is senseless given most drag shows already occur in private venues. Still, the performer worries the proposal will be abused to target the transgender community.
“I know a lot of queens who are scared to do certain things now because we are being put under such a microscope,” said Vanity, the queen who sparked Bellefontaine’s proposed city ordinance to ban drag shows that was blocked by Ohio’s Supreme Court.
H.B. 245’s hearing at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee will serve as dedicated time for the bill’s sponsors to provide testimony. Additional hearings will be held in the coming weeks for proponents and opponents to testify. Watch the hearing live here.
How could H.B. 68 impact Ohio’s trans minors?
Lawmakers introduced H.B. 68 in February to 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), the bill’s primary sponsor. “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.
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.
Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and 30 Republican co-sponsors reintroduced the bill in February after the legislation 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.
H.B. 68’s hearing at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Ohio Senate Government Oversight Committee will also serve as dedicated time for the bill’s sponsors to provide testimony. Additional hearings will be held in the coming weeks for proponents and opponents to testify. Watch the hearing live here.