Watch a previous NBC4 report on HB 183 in the video player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Parents of LGBTQ+ youth, school administrators and students spoke at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday against a bill banning transgender students from using restrooms aligned with their gender identity.
More than 110 opponents submitted testimony on National Coming Out Day on Wednesday against House Bill 183, prohibiting schools from allowing trans students to use a bathroom that doesn’t correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth. The bill states institutions are required to set separate facilities based on a student’s “biological sex,” meaning “the sex listed on a person’s official birth record.”
“No school shall permit a member of the female biological sex to use a student restroom, locker room, changing room, or shower room that has been designated by the school for the exclusive use of the male biological sex,” the bill states.
Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena) and Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) introduced the bill at the Statehouse on May 23 with 19 Republican co-sponsors. During the bill’s first hearing on Oct. 5, Lear said that modern education teaches children’s feelings should be “constantly affirmed,” including feelings of identity regardless of whether they are “rooted in reality.”
“Boys cannot become girls, and girls cannot become boys,” Lear said. “The modern issue of gender is not a social construct, but the idea you can change your gender is.”
HB 183 also prohibits schools from letting students share overnight accommodations with students of the opposite “biological sex.” Institutions would still be allowed to offer single-use facilities and the bill would not apply to children under 10 being assisted by a family member, or to someone helping a student with a disability.
Beryl Brown Piccolantonio, Gahanna-Jefferson School Board president, testified Wednesday the board is concerned the legislation “would hurt some of our most marginalized and vulnerable students” and “impact our staff who are already under significant pressure and stress.”
“We are disappointed that members of this body would spend any time at all writing or discussing legislation like this when, quite frankly, our children need all of us now more than ever to focus on addressing their needs,” said Piccolantonio. “They need us to make sure they are fed, clothed, warm, safe, educated and loved.”
Bradie Anderson, a 14-year-old trans student, said they transferred to a public school after they were no longer welcome to attend a private Catholic school. Anne Anderson, Bradie’s mother, said the politicization of the trans community is stripping away Bradie’s rights.
“For people who are all about parental rights, what about mine?” said Anderson. “Please vote not on advancing this discriminatory bill as it will have awful repercussions for kids like Bradie.”
Cam Ogden, a trans college student, testified they were sexually assaulted on campus and held their own mouth shut out of fear of being outed as trans by their own voice. Since then, Ogden said she struggles with anxiety in campus environments and uses the women’s restroom to avoid running into those who attacked her.
“Addressing this committee, I feel that same fear again. I’m afraid of how you will choose to treat me and the other students here today because we’re transgender,” said Ogden. “Across the state, transgender youth are afraid of you.”
Mallory Golski, a youth swim coach and Kaleidoscope Youth Center’s civic engagement and advocacy manager, spoke about a swimmer assigned male at birth who was kicked out of the men’s restroom at school for wearing a feminine outfit. Under HB 183, Golski said, “this kind of experience will not only become more common, it will be the requirement.”
Robert Chaloupka, a Cleveland-based attorney, testified the proposed legislation is a violation of both federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution. The bill raises countless legal issues for school boards and university administrators throughout the state, he said, as it essentially would require them to violate federal law in order to satisfy state law.
“In the case of bathrooms, perhaps the most intimate spaces, no one doubts that everyone enjoys a right to privacy,” said Chaloupka. “However, the courts have consistently held that people do not have a constitutional right to avoid interacting with transgender people.”
Minna Zelch testified her trans daughter has been using the women’s restroom for years without incident and said statistics show, in cases where harassment or assault does take place, the trans person is more likely to be the victim, not the perpetrator.
“Putting aside for the moment the fact that God also made intersex people, who happen to represent a much greater percentage of the population than transgender people and are conveniently ignored in all of these arguments, a human being’s very existence is not something that should ever be up for debate,” said Zelch.
Additional hearings will be held for HB 183 in the coming weeks, including time for proponents to testify.
The legislation marks the first statewide proposal in Ohio aiming to restrict bathroom use by trans students. However, the debate has been elevated to a federal court in Ohio after Dayton-area parents and students sued a school district for allowing trans students to use communal restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
HB 183 is part of a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed nationwide in 2023. Ohio is one of nearly two dozen states introducing hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in legislatures across the nation.