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Ohio House overrides veto of ban on gender care for minors, trans youth playing girls' sports

The Ohio House votes to override HB 68 in January 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio House votes to override HB 68 in January 2024.

By 65-28, Republicans in the Ohio House broke with Gov. Mike DeWine and voted to override his veto of House Bill 68, which blocks trans youth from access to gender-affirming care and from participating in girls’ athletics. It now heads to the Ohio Senate.

Floor testimony for and against the override stretched longer than an hour Wednesday afternoon, as Republicans vocally rallied behind the proposal that first cleared the chamber in June. They also voted against hearing DeWine’s objections to HB 68 read out loud on the floor, although Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) later read them word-for-word.

“I believe our governor has good intentions,” Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) said. “However, good intentions do not save lives or protect women. Good policy does.”

Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) had strong words for her colleagues across the aisle.

“The proverbial boogeyman that doesn't exist is killing our democracy. And with this vote to override the governor's veto today, you are literally killing our children,” Miranda said.

After DeWine vetoed the bill in late December, saying he saw it as a life-or-death matter for some Ohioans, numerous GOP leaders decried the decision—including most of the statewide executive officeholders, like Attorney General Dave Yost and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

DeWine signed an executive order banning surgeries for trans minors and proposed other related administrative rules Friday morning, but those did little to stave lawmakers off an override vote.

“BIG DAY TODAY,” Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) posted Wednesday morning on Twitter.

Advocacy organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Equality Ohio, have also condemned the governor’s executive order and proposed administrative rules.

In addition to surgeries, HB 68 bars physicians from prescribing hormones and puberty blockers to minors and creates penalties for those who do, among other provisions. The bill also mandates that K-12 and collegiate teams in Ohio be “single-sex,” and enables athletes to bring forth civil lawsuits against any institution that violates that mandate.

Strong reactions to the vote on both sides

Outside the House chambers after the vote were some tears and sounds of anguish from Ohioans affected by the bill.

Kieve Rodeheaver—a professor and transgender, non-binary art teacher from Columbus—said they worried passage of this legislation would hurt their partner’s children, who are also transgender.

“I am very affected by this bill in that it would be a death sentence to my girlfriend’s kids, to revoke care from either of them,” Rodeheaver said.

The process for getting treatment is extensive, they said, and these limitations will make it nearly impossible for children to get the comprehensive care they need. Their family is considering moving outside Ohio to make sure they can get it.

“We have had discussions extensively throughout my family about whether or not it is worth it to us to stay here,” they said.

Rodeheaver isn’t the only one who worries about the effect of HB 68 on their kids. Sam Shim said he will go home to his child, who relies on transgender health care.

“The first thing I am going to do is give my child a big hug and try not to break down, and then just kind of talk at a high level about what’s going on,” Shim said. “My child is kind of aware of what’s going on, but I don’t share every little detail, every little fight. It's hard enough being a teen and it’s even harder being a transgender teen and I don’t need to add to his stress.”

Mallory Gorski works at Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus, an LGBTQ youth facility. Trans kids, Golski said, are already often victims of bullying or discrimination—so hearing what they consider offensive remarks from Ohio lawmakers is difficult.

“There’s a whole lot of people out there who are waiting to hear if they will still have rights at the end of that day. And there’s a whole lot of people who have never had to live with that experience,” Golski said.

Click, who has led the charge on HB 68, said he listened to people who had personal or professional experience with trans issues as well as medical professionals.

“Many doctors can't come out and speak on this because they feel like their jobs are in jeopardy if they do, because there's just a push to say there's only one way you can do this,” Click said. “We have to get away from allowing our medical institutions to be captured by ideology.”

He claimed that even some Democrats who voted against the bill said in private that they were actually for it, although he refused to name names.

Corinna Cohn, a transgender person who underwent medical and surgical gender-affirming care as an adult, said she was glad the bill passed. She said she feels as though the Ohio House created a playbook for the national platform on this issue.

“What I have learned as an activist in transgender health care is that there really isn't a standard of care. There is no informed consent,” Cohn said.

Veto overrides need three-fifths votes in both chambers, but the Ohio Senate isn't scheduled to meet until Jan. 24. A spokesperson for the Senate GOP said last week it has the votes—regardless of when they are counted. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.
Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.