COLUMBUS (WCMH) — After a heated debate Thursday, the Ohio House passed a bill that would allow college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness, but only after adding an amendment that would prohibit transgender women from participating in women’s sports.
The original bill that was passed unanimously by the Ohio Senate last week did not include the ban. It was added during House debate — with some members shouting as the amendment was read into the record — and then the bill passed, largely along a party-line vote, 57-36, with Democrats in opposition.
In response late Thursday, the Ohio Senate added the name, image and likeness language to an unrelated bill that had already passed the House. The two chambers will work to resolve the differences of both bills before sending them to Gov. Mike DeWine.
Last week during Senate testimony, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and football coach Ryan Day spoke in its favor.
The bill was passed by a House committee Wednesday. Then in debate on the House floor Thursday, members removed a clause that would have allowed it to become law by July 1, when several other states have similar legislation set to take effect.
Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) next read the transgender amendment into the record as several members pounded on their desks to disrupt her. Rep. Phillip Robinson (D-Solon) spoke in opposition, saying that a separate bill was taken up last year and failed. Several members spoke out for or against the amendment before the vote was taken, with some Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it.
The amendment was added on a 54-40 vote.
After the bill passed the House, State Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who led the efforts in his chamber, expressed optimism on the name, likeness and image component without referencing the transgender ban.
“I continue to strongly pursue legislation to ensure student-athletes receive in law their rights to their own name, image, and likeness by the July 1, 2021, deadline,” Antani said. “I am optimistic in my prospects, and I will continue to work hard to get this done for our student-athletes.”
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Cincinnati) spoke in favor of the amendment.
“We have different body mass, a different muscle mass, a different bone structure, different lung capacities and yes the big item in the room, we have menstrual cycles which compromise our abilities to meet maximum performance on any given day and athletic competition.”
Densil Porteous, the Executive Director Stonewall Columbus, said this month, Pride Month, is about celebrating identity. He spoke out against the amendment saying, “To say that we have to keep them out of the sport and to ensure they are registering with men’s sports or co-ed sports, that’s diminishing of who they are.”
He’s calling on legislators to take a stand against the amendment.
“This doesn’t belong in any legislation. No one should be legislating how someone feels and identifies. And so, to even think that they thought to tuck this in is ridiculous,” said Porteous.
Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) slammed Republicans for passing a bill targeting transgender persons during Pride Month.
“Make no mistake, this isn’t about protecting girls — it’s about pushing an outdated and bigoted ideology that hurts trans people and sends the message that LGBTQ Ohioans aren’t welcome on the field, on the court, or as valued members of our community,” Sobecki said. “It’s a shame that this amendment tainted an otherwise good bill to empower collegiate athletes.”
Although a law allowing college athletes in Ohio to profit off their name, likeness, and image might have helped the state keep pace in the changing college sports landscape, a ban on transgender athletes might cause major sports events to be played elsewhere.
In 2017, the NCAA decided against holding championship events in North Carolina until a transgender “bathroom bill” was repealed. In a statement at the time, the NCAA board of governors said, “We believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment. If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”