Ohio lawmakers kill controversial trans sports bill that would have required genital inspections 

Republican lawmakers failed to come to agreement on the controversial provision

An Ohio bill banning the participation of trans girls from school sports has failed, following a split among House Republicans regarding a controversial provision that would have subjected children to genital inspections.

The legislation, titled House Bill 151 and sponsored by Republican Don Jones, was introduced in February of this year and was passed by the House in June following multiple committee hearings. It then passed on to the Senate, where it was combined with another bill, titled HB178, that would have given the Governor’s Office power over Ohio’s Board of Education; as well as an additional provision preventing most schools from making COVID vaccines mandatory. The provision requiring genital inspections was also removed from the bill with some of the Senate considering it too extreme, and the bill was limited to K-12 schools. Previously, the ban had included college students.

The combined bill then failed in the House, where multiple lawmakers who had originally sponsored the bill or supported the controversial provision rescinded their support, either voting against it or abstaining. These include Republican representatives Sarah Fowler Arthur, Jean Schmidt, Mike Loychik and Diane V. Grendell.

HB151 is not the first bill targeting trans youth or athletes to have been pushed by lawmakers in the state this year. Another bill, which seeks to strip trans youth of gender-affirming care, was introduced last month by Ohio’s House of Representatives last month. This bill has been postponed, but is expected to make its way back to the next General Assembly.

The state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, had previously signalled that he wouldn’t sign any such bills into law last year, implying that decisions regarding the trans sports debate should not be left to the government. This came after a different bill allowing college athletes to profit off of their image was amended to bar trans women from joining teams corresponding with their gender identity in 2021.

“This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations, including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who can tailor policies to meet the needs of their member athletes and member institutions,” DeWine said in a statement last year, according to Cleveland News.

However, the governor professed his support of HB178 earlier this month, and has spoken out against vaccine mandates, making it unclear if the Senate’s negotiations would have swayed him to sign the trans sports ban if it had crossed his desk.

 

The Ohio High School Athletic Association already regulates the participation of trans girls in school sports, requiring a minimum of one year of hormone treatment, as well as an evaluation from the executive director’s office, proving them to not have a “physical or physiological advantage” over their peers.

Ohio’s bill isn’t the first anti-trans sports bill to include a genital inspection provision. Last summer, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which initially included a similar provision allowing schools to subject minors to such examinations (though the provision did not make it into the final version of the bill). New Jersey has also introduced a bill under the same name, which would ban trans girls from sports teams that correspond to their gender identity, and force students whose sex is disputed to present a signed physician’s statement proving reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup and testosterone levels.

Among the activists who spoke at last week’s hearing for the Ohio bill was Minna Zelch, whose daughter is a trans student athlete. 

“As you know, they already have a policy in place to ensure fairness for all athletes. I can tell you from experience that this approval process is daunting,” she said. “My daughter has given me permission to share with you that at her last blood draw in October, her testosterone was 12 ng/dl. You’re talking about advantages: cisgender girls have an advantage over my daughter.”

Ursula Muñoz-Schaefer

Ursula Muñoz S. (she/her) is a freelance writer and reporter based in Puerto Rico. She speaks English, Spanish and German and has previously written for news outlets in South Florida and West Texas. Her work has been recognized by Florida's Society of Professional Journalists.

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