NATIONAL NEWS

Ohio House overrides Republican governor’s veto of ban on gender affirming care for minors

Jan 10, 2024, 2:51 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Republican-dominated Ohio House voted Wednesday to override GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors and restricting transgender women’s and girls’ participation on sports teams, a move LGBTQ+ activists say would severely restrict the everyday lives of transgender youth in the state.

The override propels closer to law a ban on gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapies and sets restrictions on mental health care for transgender individuals under 18. The legislation also bans transgender girls and women from girls and women’s sports teams at both the K-12 and collegiate level.

DeWine previously said he vetoed the legislation to protect parents and children from government overreach on medical decisions.

The House voted to override the veto 65-28 along party lines. The Republican-majority Senate is expected take up their own override vote on Jan. 24.

Rep. Gary Click, a Republican Baptist preacher from Sandusky County and sponsor of the bill, has maintained that the measures protect children who cannot provide informed consent for such life-altering care. He hopes that the override, and possible related future legislation, will encourage doctors and other individuals who may be afraid to testify against gender-affirming care for minors to come forward and speak their minds.

“We have to get away from allowing our medical institutions to be captured by ideology,” Click said.

Rep. Beth Liston, a Democrat and Columbus-area pediatrician, said on the floor that she was struggling to “comprehend the arrogance of the people in this room” who voted to override the veto and enact these bans, as they are not medical or mental health professionals.

Liston went on to encourage the LGBTQ+ community, saying there was still hope and pointed to recent votes by Ohio citizens to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution and legalize marijuana as evidence that the people could still have impact on these bans.

At least 22 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and many of those states face lawsuits. Courts have issued mixed rulings, with the nation’s first law, in Arkansas, struck down by a federal judge who said the ban on care violated the due process rights of transgender youth and their families. Enforcement is blocked in some states, and the laws have been enacted in others.

The care has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.

At least 20 states have approved a version of a blanket ban on transgender athletes playing on K-12 and collegiate sports teams statewide, but a Biden administration proposal to forbid such outright bans is set to be finalized in March after two delays and much pushback. As proposed, the rule would establish that blanket bans would violate Title IX, the landmark gender-equity legislation enacted in 1972.

DeWine vetoed the bill Dec. 29 of last year, then on Jan. 5, signed an executive order and announced proposed regulations designed to address some of the elements the bill covered while allowing non-surgical gender-affirming care for minors, such as puberty blockers and hormone treatments, to continue.

The executive order bans gender-affirming surgeries for minors, even though medical professionals say they weren’t occurring anyway.

DeWine’s proposals, alongside his executive order, have garnered harsh criticism from supporters of the bans and their opponents alike. The proposals include mandating a “contractual relationship” with medical care teams for both transgender children and adults and comprehensive and lengthy mental health programs before any treatments or surgeries.

None of DeWine’s rules tackle the sports ban provision. He told reporters last week that he would not address that particular ban and felt gender-affirming care was more important at this time. On the House floor, Republicans continued to push that such bans were about fairness and protection for girls and women and sports while Democrats categorized them as bullying kids.

DeWine’s break from his party’s status quo, which he has touted as a “pro-life” decision, has drawn backlash from fellow Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, and conservative Christian groups even with his proposed regulations. Trump posted to Truth Social that DeWine had fallen to the “radical left,” that he was “done” with Ohio’s governor and urged legislators to override.

Less than 24 hours before DeWine’s veto, Lt. Gov Jon Husted, who is currently running for governor in 2026, voiced his support of the bans on social media and said that he hoped the measure would become law.

While opponents such as Democrats, families with transgender children and LGBTQ+ people are rallying against the veto, with possible legal challenges being explored after the Senate’s expected override, they are not happy with DeWine’s proposals either.

Equality Ohio, an organization seeking to preserve rights of the LGBTQ+ community, said in a statement that “as drafted, the proposed rules fundamentally change how Ohio medical systems operate and disrupt care for existing patients, including adults” and that DeWine’s proposals would impose broader regulations on the transgender community.

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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Ohio House overrides Republican governor’s veto of ban on gender affirming care for minors