As the Ohio legislature plods forward in advancing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, hearings abound at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
This Wednesday, April 19 at 9:30 a.m., there will be a rare confluence of two anti-LGBTQ+ bills being heard in two different rooms at the very same time:
- The Public Health Policy committee will hold a first hearing for HB 68 to ban gender-affirming healthcare in Ohio.
- The Higher Education committee will hold their third hearing on HB 6 to ban Ohio’s transgender girls and women from competing in team sports from kindergarten through college.
Though both bills would have devastating effects on Ohio’s trans youth, the hearings themselves should be a study in contrasts. Let’s break it down for you.
Background: Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, a Baptist pastor from Sandusky County in north-central Ohio, held an event on Feb. 22 to announce the introduction of the HB 68, the Saving Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act.
If passed, the bill would:
- Prohibit physicians from prescribing cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers, and from performing any type of gender reassignment surgery on minors.
- The bill would prohibit health care providers from helping their patients get gender-affirming care in other states, outlawing conduct that “aids and abets.” At the press conference, Click said that these cases would be referred to the attorney general and that the intent here would be penalties that are civil and not criminal.
- Prohibit mental health professionals from diagnosing or treating a minor with a gender-related condition without obtaining the consent of the patient’s legal guardian and screening the patient for comorbidities, physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse and other trauma.
- Prohibit courts from considering a parent’s refusal to accept a child’s trans identity in custody cases, including misgendering, deadnaming, and denying access to counseling for their child.
- Prevent any restriction on the practice of “watchful waiting,” an approach in which medical interventions are intentionally withheld.
- Mandate that mental health professionals report annually information regarding minors they have treated for gender-related conditions, including number of patients, demographic data on patients (age at diagnosis, sex assigned at birth, comorbidities) and the number of patients who resumed identification with their sex assigned at birth.
- Prohibit Medicaid from covering gender transition services.
What to expect: First hearings of bills usually consist solely of testimony from the sponsor, in this case: Rep. Click. Thus they typically are relatively short hearings. That said, when he introduced a similar bill in 2022, Click brought with him a former porn star who said the C-word on the floor of the Columbus Statehouse. So there was that.
Rep. Click will unquestionably trot out lines from his standard stump speech: that HB 68 is intended to provide the best possible care for transgender youth, that this bill is on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, and that gender-affirming care increases thoughts of suicide. In contrast, recent studies have concluded that gender-affirming care can result in a decrease in both psychological distress and suicidal ideation.
What to look for: The members of the Public Health Policy will likely pose questions to the bill’s sponsor. Keep your eyes on ranking member Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin, an actual pediatrician who will ask questions based in actual science.
Background: This is the third time that Rep. Jenna Powell, R-Arcanum, has proposed a version of HB 6, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which would bar trans girls and women from athletic participation in Ohio. In both 2021 and 2022, Powell ambushed House proceedings to force this bill forward without vetting it through proper committees.
2023’s HB 6 was introduced in February as part of Ohio House Republicans’ list of priorities for the 135th General Assembly.
Wednesday’s third hearing will consist of opponent testimony: those testifying against this trans sports ban, a collection of testimonies that had not been presented in the Ohio House with either of the previous versions of this bill.
Opponent testimony was provided in a Senate version last December. Ninety-three statements of written testimony were submitted, all of which were in opposition to the trans sports ban, even though the hearing was open to testimony both for and against the bill.
What to expect: This hearing will most assuredly be quite a bit longer than the HB 68 hearing and will feature a steady stream of voices arguing in favor of letting all of Ohio’s youth participate in sports. Ohio’s trans youth and their parents have previously provided some of the most impassioned testimony against this trans sports ban. In all likelihood, they will again.
What to look for: Three things:
- Rep. Josh Williams, R-Oregon, a member of the committee, has already made up his mind, posting on social media that “it’s time for Ohio to pass the Save Woman’s Sports Act.” Look for his questions to be wholly skewed in that direction.
- At the second hearing, Republicans and Democrats alike repeatedly used the word “transgender” incorrectly, including as a verb. Let’s see if that continues.
- Will cisgender female athletes and members of the business community speak up for trans youth participation? We’ll find out.
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