Jan 18, 2024 - Politics

Ohio Senate vote marks latest battle over transgender rights

An illustration of a transgender gender sign

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ohio transgender rights advocates are gearing up for a final legislative fight next week — but it's not the only challenge they are facing in the state.

Why it matters: House Bill 68 would keep minors from receiving gender-affirming care, restrict trans minors' mental health care and prohibit transgender women from playing girls' and women's K-12 and college sports.

  • Medical associations and children's hospitals say gender-affirming care is medically necessary and potentially lifesaving.

Catch up quick: Republicans in the state House voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine's December veto of the bill last Wednesday, and Senate Republicans are expected to follow suit next week.

  • If that happens, the law would go into effect 90 days later.

But, but, but: The bill is not the only policy that Ohio transgender advocates are fighting.

  • After his veto, DeWine signed an executive order banning transition-related surgeries for minors and asked the state Department of Health to draft new transition care guidelines for all Ohioans.
  • The proposed rules — for adults and minors — amount to the strictest in the country, according to civil rights advocates, Axios' Maya Goldman writes. Public comments are on some are due Feb. 5, others were due Jan. 19.

Plus: Several trans candidates for the Ohio Statehouse, including one from Stark County, are pushing back against challenges and disqualifications for not including their birth names on election paperwork, the AP reports.

What they're saying: During a virtual press conference last week, Dara Adkison, secretary of TransOhio, called the governor's actions "appalling" and a "direct and cruel attempt to cripple medical care for both trans youth and adults across the state."

LGBTQ+ advocates are urging Ohioans to contact state Senators ahead of the vote and working to raise awareness.

  • "We've dealt with obstacles for decades," Brian Wenke, a Columbus native and executive director of LGBTQ+ advocacy group It Gets Better, tells Axios.
  • "We will get past this. We are going to keep amplifying the stories that shine a positive light on the community."

The other side: Some Republicans insist transgender health care restrictions protect children.

  • "It is hard to fathom that we live in a society that would tell children that they need drugs and scalpels to live their authentic lives," Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The big picture: 22 states have enacted age restrictions on gender-affirming care, according to the ACLU of Ohio, and more proposals remain active in other states.

What's next: LGBTQ+ advocates say they will wait until the Senate vote before exploring legal challenges, which have seen success in other states. But advocates have vowed to keep fighting.

  • "When you're faced with a situation where you have diminished rights, you're going to fight against it," Wenke says.
  • "This is a long game, and I believe these opinions will die out eventually."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say there are two public comment windows for the new proposed gender-affirming care guidelines, including one on Jan. 19.

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