Metro Weekly

Ohio House Overrides Veto of Anti-Trans Bill

Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives overrode the Governor's veto of a bill targeting gender-affirming care and trans athletes.

Ohio Statehouse – Photo: Sean Pavone, via Dreamstime

Republican lawmakers who control the Ohio House of Representatives voted along party lines on January 10 to override the veto of a sweeping anti-transgender bill by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

The vote was 68 to 25.

The bill bans gender-affirming health treatments for transgender minors, penalizing doctors who prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to minors suffering from gender dysphoria. 

The bill also prohibits transgender athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identity, with a particular focus on stopping transgender females from competing against cisgender females.

“I think most people here have good intentions,” State Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), the bill’s primary sponsor, said in a statement to justify the override. “I believe our governor has good intentions. However, good intentions do not save lives or protect women — good policy does.” 

The bill now heads to the Ohio State Senate, where an override vote is scheduled for January 24. If the Senate overrides the veto, Ohio will become the 23rd state to institute restrictions on gender-affirming care and the 25th state to ban transgender athletes from female-designated sports teams.

House Democrats condemned the vote and accused Republicans of ignoring medical studies that support pursuing gender-affirming care as treatment for gender dysphoria, noting that most mainstream medical and mental health organizations have come out in support of gender-affirming care.

Democrats also accused Republicans of ignoring the testimony of more than 600 state residents who testified against the anti-trans bill during legislative hearings last year.

“What we’re doing is moving people backwards; we are restricting people’s rights; we are taking away health care,” State Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin), an OB-GYN by trade, said in a floor speech blasting her colleagues. “I’m angry, I’m frustrated, and I’m disappointed.

DeWine issued the veto on December 29, warning that the measure’s health care provisions were likely to do more harm than good if enacted. He also expressed concerns about usurping parents’ right to make medical decisions, in consultation with medical experts, that are in their children’s best interests. DeWine is only the second Republican governor to veto a ban on gender-affirming care and the third to veto a trans athlete ban.

However, when issuing his veto, DeWine also noted that some of the concerns of people pushing for the ban were legitimate. He has issued an executive order prohibiting transgender minors from undergoing surgical interventions, which are rarely performed on minors in the United States.

He also announced last week that Ohio’s Department of Health and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services would be filing administrative rules for public comment to place restrictions on how transgender individuals may access gender-affirming treatments.

The intent behind the rules is to prevent medical providers from pushing patients into pursuing transition-related procedures in the hope of avoiding regret or remorse.

Under the rules, transgender adults seeking access to medications like hormones must consult with a team of doctors, “including but not limited to an endocrinologist, a bioethicist, and a psychiatrist.” The rules will also require transgender adults to obtain a “comprehensive care plan,” including “lengthy” mental health counseling before pursuing any medical interventions. That time period is defined as at least six months for patients under the age of 21.

Critics of the proposed rules argue that the requirements are likely to lead to a bottleneck when it comes to trying to access medical care — as some physicians won’t offer gender-affirming treatments for fear of potential legal liability — and is likely to place a greater financial burden on transgender patients.

Following the override on Wednesday, DeWine continued to stand by his veto.

“I continue to believe it is in the best interests of children for these medical decisions to be made by the child’s parents and not by the government,” he said in a statement.

Betty Elswick, of Marysville, drove to Columbus to protest the override at the state capitol with her 16-year-old trans son, Parker, who has been receiving hormones for four months. She told  The Columbus Dispatch the family would likely leave the state if the override was successful. 

Minna Zelch, the mother of Ember, a 19-year-old transgender female, said she’s concerned about the administrative rules, which will likely restrict her daughter’s ability to receive care even though she’s not a minor.

Ember, who attends college out of state, has been returning home to receive medical care. Minna Zelch told the Dispatch that the family will likely look for a provider closer to Ember’s college if the restrictions are green-lighted.

The Human Rights Campaign condemned the veto override.

“MAGA extremists in the legislature have caved to [former President Donald] Trump’s bullying and decided that politicians, not parents, should decide what health care Ohio’s youth have access to,” Kelly Robinson, HRC’s president, said in a statement. “The override is a clear attempt to earn the approval of Trump and rile up their base instead of doing what is best for Ohio families.”

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