COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Summer recess is coming to an end for state lawmakers and when they come back to session in one week, there are a few contentious bills looming.
“They’re all solutions looking for a problem. There isn’t a problem,” Ohio Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said. “The problem is these bills trample on the civil rights of people in the state, should they pass.”
One part of the bill bans gender-affirming care for minors.
“You can’t really change your gender by having surgery but there shouldn’t be surgery in order to do that,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said. “So yeah, I think we are going to figure out how to get that done.”
Antonio called that portion of the bill ‘unconstitutional.’
“Of course, we’ve seen other states that have passed these kinds of bills immediately go to court and that’s what would happen in the state of Ohio,” Antonio said. “Trying to micromanage people’s lives. The people who say they want small government, it’s interesting, they want big government that gets in the lives of people in a big way,”
Antonio added parents and experts should “decide what’s best for their children.” Huffman disagreed.
“Just because a child is a child of a parent, the parent doesn’t get to do whatever they want,” Huffman said. “We as a society prohibit certain things a parent can do.”
Huffman said banning this care for minors should not stop at surgery.
“The next question is ‘should there be some chemical procedures allowed?’ And I don’t think most people want to have that for minors either,” Huffman said.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Gary Click (R-Vickery) said puberty blockers are “at the center” of this legislation.
The same bill also has the Save Women’s Sports act in it, which bans transgender athletes from playing on teams that align with their gender identity.
Representative Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) brought that part of the bill forward, and she said the legislation is about making sure there is a “level playing field,” and supporting girls sports.
“The Ohio High School Athletic Association has guidelines to deal with transgender girls participating in sports,” Antonio said. “The Ohio Legislature does not need to come in and micromanage something that again, legislators are not experts on.”
According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, last school year, there were six transgender athletes, statewide, participating in sports.
“Although I think people are right that it rarely happens, it happens often enough and it is a basic unfairness to girls in sports,” Huffman said.
Antonio said she’s worried about the effect these bills have on children who are trying to figure out who their “authentic selves” are.
“There is this obsession with a tiny, tiny group of young people and children who want to participate in sports as their authentic selves,” Antonio said.
The Save Women’s Sports Act did come close to passing last year — but was ultimately held up in the house.
“I think we need to pass that; I think we need to put that question behind us,” Huffman said.
There are other LGBTQ-related bills in the House, awaiting their very first committee hearings. One of those, called House Bill 183, would ban transgender students from using a restroom aligned with their gender identity at schools and universities.
“I don’t know why we have to pass a bill, but if we have to, we will, that says ‘a man can’t go into the women’s restroom,’” Huffman said. “That seems to be common sense to me.”
Another, House Bill 245, would 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.”
“Just [the bill’s] introduction creates a climate of hate,” Antonio said. “It creates a climate where it almost gives people permission to be [biased] and bigoted.”