The controversial bill that would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports and youth athletics passed by a 8-6 vote in the Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, May 10.
All five Democrats on the committee and State Rep. Gayle Manning, R- North Ridgeville, voted against the bill.
State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, introduced House Bill 6 in February, dubbed “Save Women’s Sports Act” saying it’s a fairness issue.
“All that girls are asking for is a fair shot, and to be given the chance to play and win by the rules in the sports that they love,” Powell said in a news release. “That opportunity is being ripped from them by biological males.”
HB 6 would require separate single-sex athletic teams and allows athletes to file a civil lawsuit “if the participant is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers harm as a result of a violation of the bill’s single-sex participation requirements or if the participant is subject to retaliation for reporting such a violation,” according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission.
There are only six transgender high school female student athletes in Ohio, and of those, only three have been approved to play in the current spring sports season, the OCJ previously reported.
Currently, if a trans girl wants to play on a team with cis girls, she must go through hormone treatments for at least one year or show no physical or physiological advantages, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The bill, which now awaits further consideration in the House, has received lots of pushback from parents, students, activists and clergy members.
Twenty-one legislatures across the country have enacted their own versions of the Save Women’s Sports Act.
House Bill 151
The House Higher Education Committee heard sponsor and proponent testimony for House Bill 151, the companion bill to Senate Bill 83 — the massive higher education bill that would significantly change college campuses.
HB 151 was introduced by state Rep. Steve Demetriou, R-Bainbridge Twp., and state Rep. Josh Williams, R-Oregon, in April after state Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, introduced SB 83 in March.
All three legislators testified Wednesday and answered questions from committee members for almost an hour.
The original version of HB 151 would mainly impact public schools and would ban programs with Chinese schools, ban mandatory diversity training, prohibit university staff and employees from striking, require American history courses, and mandate tenure evaluations based on if the educator showed bias or taught with bias.
Revisions to SB 83 were adopted Tuesday during the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee meeting, and those same changes were adopted to HB 151 during Wednesday’s meeting.
Some of those revisions, among others, include clarifying the segregation of faculty and staff based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is only prohibited in classroom settings, orientations and graduations; allowing mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for certain exemptions; and existing college programs with Chinese institutions can remain as long as there are specific requirements in place.
“Students are at the core of HB 151 and SB 83,” Cirino said. “The main pillar of this legislation has been allowing students to receive an education that contains a broad range of perspectives, discussion, debate and ultimately true intellectual diversity.”
Williams' testimony was nearly identical to the previous proponent testimony he gave for SB 83. In it, he shared his experience of attending the University of Toledo College of Law and being discriminated against by his professor and classmates after commenting in class that the United States should not adopt an open-border policy.
“Encouraged by this professor, classmates felt they could attack me as well, calling me a Nazi, a slave trader, an affront to my race and an Uncle Tom,” he testified. “Situations like these arise whenever the narrative that is being taught by universities is challenged, and the threat of confrontation and being ostracized is often enough to stop open discussion in its tracks.”
State Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, said he is concerned Williams is taking his bad experience and extrapolating it across Ohio universities.
“How do you explain the content of this bill that I’m reading right here and what you are telling us about freedom of thought and intellectual diversity because it sounds like a Big Brother attack on free thought,” he said.
Williams responded by saying the bill doesn’t attack professors but instead would create a review process for faculty.
State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, said he is worried HB 151 will drive professors and students away from Ohio’s colleges, and add bureaucratic work to universities. Several college students have said they will leave Ohio if SB 83 passes.
Demetriou disagreed with both points and and said the bill will open Ohio up to a wider pool of students and faculty.
“What we are saying is that you can’t demonstrate particular biases and require that students subscribe to a certain viewpoint in order to pass your class or get a good grade,” Williams said.
Those in favor of HB 151
State Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, said he has become aware of the “desperate need” for a bill like this after hearing about his four children’s college experiences.
“Often, speech is condemned unless it’s liberal speech,” Bird said.
Madison Belletti, a senior at the University of Cincinnati and President of UC’s College Republicans, testified in favor of HB 151.
“This bill is vital to ensuring diversity of perspectives is protected on college campuses,” she testified. “Between my own personal experience in college and the stories I hear from other students on campus, extreme partisanship is pervasive, and it normally entirely falls on the left side of the aisle.”
She said she has lost friends, been accosted on campus and her grades have been penalized because of her difference of opinion.
“When professors and the administration are allowed to push one perspective onto students without fear of consequences or public scrutiny, students receive a subpar education, a culture of bullying is created, and innovative ideas are squashed,” she testified.
This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.
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