Metro Weekly

Judge Blocks Ohio’s Anti-Transgender Bans

Ohio's Attorney General is demanding that a judge's order temporarily blocking the state's ban on gender-affirming care be overturned.

Ohio State Capitol – Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM, via Flickr – Creative Commons

Ohio Republican Attorney General Dave Yost is appealing a judge’s decision to block the state from enforcing its ban on gender-affirming care for minors and a ban prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on female-designated sports teams. 

Yost filed an emergency motion with the Ohio Supreme Court asking it to overturn a temporary restraining order issued by Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook, which blocked the law’s provisions from taking effect for two weeks.

Holbrook, a Republican appointee, found that two transgender minors and their parents, who sued to challenge the law in court last month, were likely to suffer “immediate” harm, in the form of reduced access to health care providers willing to treat their gender dysphoria, if the law — which imposes penalties on doctors who prescribe gender-affirming treatments — were to take effect.

Holbrook found that, because the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their lawsuit, it was best to issue a temporary restraining order “maintaining the status quo while the Court can more thoroughly review the evidence and argument following a full hearing.”

Holbrook also noted that the whole law had to be blocked because lawmakers combined the bill banning gender-affirming care with a separate bill banning transgender athletes from women’s sports to gain the necessary votes to pass the Republican-controlled state legislature.

In December, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed the bill from taking effect, expressing qualms about infringing on parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their own children. Republican lawmakers overrode that veto in January.

In his emergency motion asking the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene and block Holbrook’s restraining order, Yost argued that the judge “acted beyond the scope of his powers” in issuing the two-week restraining order, which is renewable, reported the Ohio Capital Journal.

Yost also argued that the statewide restraining order is too broad and not narrowly tailored to prevent specific plaintiffs from suffering alleged harms. Yost argues the plaintiffs failed to present Holbrook with sufficient evidence that they faced immediate harm if the law were to take effect.

“Statewide injunctions were once rare,” Yost wrote in his motion. “Now, they are increasingly sought, and even granted, as a weapon against democratically-enacted laws…. A single judge, that is, cannot wield more power than a Governor’s veto.”

Yost also argued that other parties besides transgender individuals and their families are harmed because the law did not take effect.

Those parties include:

  • Female athletes who will be disadvantaged by having to compete against athletes assigned male at birth.
  • Parents who are skeptical of or refuse to affirm a child’s transgender identity, whom the law protects from losing custody of their children in court cases, such as in divorce proceedings.
  • Gender-dysphoric minors who should be stopped from pursuing gender-affirming care until they are old enough to understand the ramifications of such treatments.

LGBTQ advocates celebrated the Holbrook’s decision, hailing it as a victory for trans youth and their families.

“Ohio’s ban is an openly discriminatory breach of the rights of transgender youth and their parents alike and presents a real danger to the same young people it claims to protect,” Harper Seldin, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are committed to opposing this law until it is permanently overturned, making Ohio a safer place to raise every family.”

Meanwhile, an Ohio state legislative panel has green-lighted an administrative rule that will ban gender confirmation surgery for minors, which is set to take effect on May 3.

Ohio health care providers and transgender medical experts say that surgical interventions are rarely performed on minors.

The rule was one of several proposed by DeWine following his veto of the across-the-board ban on gender-affirming health care, in an effort to address claims that such treatments are insufficiently regulated or that patients are too often rushed into pursuing a gender transition.

Other rules, which are expected to be approved in the future, would require transgender minors to undergo six months of counseling before receiving hormonal treatments. Another rule would require providers to report non-identifying data on gender dysphoria diagnoses and treatments.

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