Updated Dec 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Ohio’s Republican governor vetoes ban on gender-affirming care

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) speaking in  Covington, Kentucky, in January 2023.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) speaking in Covington, Kentucky, in January. Photo: Joshua A. Bickel/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vetoed a bill on Friday that would have prevented minors from receiving gender-affirming health care and restricted transgender girls' ability to participate on school sports teams.

Why it matters: DeWine is now just one of two Republican governors who have vetoed restrictions on gender-affirming care and among a few who have rejected bills that would constrain trans athletes.

Catch up quick: The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Gary Click, a Baptist pastor and supported by religious groups and a swimmer who competed against a trans athlete in college.

  • Opponents included various medical organizations, children's hospitals and LGBTQ+ rights groups.

DeWine has previously said the issue of trans sports participation should be handled by athletic associations rather than the government.

  • There are only a handful of trans athletes in Ohio that would've been impacted by the law out of approximately 400,000 athletes in 7th-12th grade sports, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.

What they're saying: DeWine said in a press conference on Friday that before vetoing the bill, he spoke with several different people with a wide range of opinions on gender-affirming care.

  • They included doctors who provide the care and doctors who oppose it, people who have received such care and had positive and negative experiences and parents who believe their children were saved by gender-affirming care.
  • DeWine said he concluded that most decisions on gender-affirming care should be made by parents informed by doctors who are advising them.

"This bill would impact a very small number of Ohio's children," DeWine said. "But for those children who face gender dysphoria and for their families, the consequences of this bill could not be more profound."

  • "Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life," he added. "Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived, would be dead today, if they had not received the treatment they received from one of Ohio's children's hospitals."
  • DeWine said in deciding whether to veto, he only focused on the bill's limitations on gender-affirming care. He said he didn't consider the sports ban because "it affects just a handful of children."

Of note: Though he vetoed the bill, the governor said he agreed with the state legislature on multiple points it raised.

  • He said he agreed that gender-affirming surgeries should not be performed on minors and directed state agencies to create rules to prevent them from receiving such treatments in the states.
  • DeWine said he also shared concerns about a lack of data regarding the number of people who receive gender-affirming care and ordered that rules be drafted to require reporting of such data to state agencies and the legislature.

The big picture: Republicans can override the veto with a three-fifths (60%) majority.

  • They hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers and the bill passed with more than 60% support.
  • GOP lawmakers have battled with DeWine in the past. They previously voted to override a veto limiting the governor's power to issue pandemic health orders.
  • Ohio's bill was similar to several other bills introduced or passed in other states.
  • The legislation is part of a nationwide effort pushed largely by Christian and conservative groups that seeks to restrict transgender people's ability to compete in sports, access health care and more, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

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Editor's note: This story had been edited with additional details throughout.

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