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Ohio House overrides governor’s veto of trans care ban and restriction on athletes

The vote prompted chants of “Shame!” from protesters in the House gallery, causing the House livestream to be temporarily cut.
Mike DeWine
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks in Columbus on Dec. 29 after vetoing the SAFE Act.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

Ohio’s Republican-led House voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that would restrict both transition-related medical care for minors and transgender athletes’ participation on school sports teams.

The House voted 65-28 Wednesday, prompting chants of “Shame!” from the House gallery and the House livestream to be temporarily cut. 

The bill will now go to the Senate, where a three-fifths majority is also needed to override the veto. Senate President Matt Huffman told NBC affiliate WCMH of Columbus that the chamber has the required votes and is likely to also override the veto on Jan. 24, which would make Ohio the 23rd state with a restriction on transition-related care and the 25th to limit trans student athletes’ participation.

Before the vote, more than a dozen representatives spoke out both in favor of and against the bill, which would ban puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for minors who weren’t already receiving such treatment before the bill’s effective date.

“No parent has the constitutional right to harm their child,” Rep. Gary Click, the bill’s Republican sponsor, said Wednesday on the House floor. “The same government that requires you to send your children to school, prohibits you from giving them illicit drugs and can charge parents with neglect and abuse also has the obligation to prevent parents and physicians from chemically castrating and sterilizing their children.”

Click also called on DeWine to issue an executive order preventing the distribution of puberty blockers and hormone therapy for 90 days until the bill takes effect, because, he said, he believes the measure will cause “a rush on the pharmacies to get those dangerous and deforming drugs.”

Rep. Anita Somani, a Democrat who was a gynecologist for more than 30 years, said her office received more than 1,500 emails in opposition to the bill, compared to 200 in favor. She said she has since received heartbreaking calls from trans youth and adults who are afraid of losing access to care and from doctors and social workers who wouldn’t be able to continue caring for their patients. 

“Trust science, trust the families, the parents, the patients and the experts who have testified repeatedly that gender-affirming care is a continuum designed to help people achieve their authentic true self,” Somani said. “It isn’t up to the government to make these decisions, and we need to stay the hell out of the exam room.”

Major medical associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — support minors’ access to gender-affirming care and oppose state bans. 

DeWine vetoed the bill last month after having talked with families who have been both helped and harmed by gender-affirming care, making him one of only two Republican governors to have vetoed such a measure, alongside then-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2021. 

Last week, in anticipation of the Legislature’s overriding his veto, he issued an executive order banning transition-related surgery for minors, which is already not performed on minors in Ohio, according to testimony from Nick Lashutka, the president of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association. 

At the same news conference where he issued the executive order, DeWine also announced a set of administrative rules that would add more barriers to transition-related care for both minors and adults. Those rules would be adopted and enforced by the state Health Department and the Mental Health and Addiction Services Department after a public comment period.

The rules would require that those receiving transition-related care have multidisciplinary teams of health providers, mandate that patients give informed consent before treatment and after having received information about the risks of gender-affirming care and require that patients undergo a period of psychological counseling before they receive hormone therapy or other treatment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said in a statement after the House vote that the bill and DeWine’s proposed restrictions on all care, if finalized, “would make Ohio the most restrictive state in the country with respect to evidence-based health care, imposing disastrous burdens on providers untethered from any medical guidelines.”

“We are extremely disappointed that the Ohio House continued their crusade against transgender youth and their families by returning early for an emergency session to override the Governor’s veto on HB 68,” the ACLU of Ohio and the national ACLU said in a joint statement. “This measure may force families to leave the state, disrupting communities and other deep ties to Ohio’s history and economy.”  

Last month, the Ohio House heard from transgender teens living in the state who said they would be negatively affected by the bill. Sean Miller, 15, told the representatives that “laws like this are pushing proud Ohioans like me out of our homes.”

“I want to live in Ohio,” Miller testified, according to WCMH. “But if I do not have the right to choose to live in a body that fits who I am on the inside, I cannot.”