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ACLU mounting legal challenge against Ohio gender-affirming care ban

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Monday said it plans to file a lawsuit challenging a new state law that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.

“We are preparing litigation to defend transgender youth and their constitutional right to receive medically necessary healthcare,” Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio, said Monday in a news release that announced the group’s intent to challenge the law.

Ohio’s Republican-dominated Legislature last week voted to override Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of House Bill 68, which prohibits health care providers from administering gender-affirming medical care to minors and bars transgender student-athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

The law makes an exception for transgender minors who were already receiving treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy prior to its effective date.

DeWine vetoed the bill in December, after he spent weeks traveling the state on what he described as a “fact-finding mission” that included talks with medical professionals and families of transgender children. He is only the second Republican governor to veto a gender-affirming health care ban, and just the third to veto legislation restricting transgender athlete participation in school sports.

The ACLU of Ohio’s lawsuit, which the group on Monday said will be filed before House Bill 68 takes effect in April, will only focus on the measure’s restrictions on gender-affirming care.

House Bill 68 has drawn criticism from LGBTQ advocates and medical experts, who say the new law unfairly targets transgender people and blocks access to medically necessary health care. Hundreds of opponents testified against the bill during public hearings last year.

“Gender affirming healthcare is safe, effective, and necessary,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU. “We are prepared to go to court and defend the rights and dignity of transgender youth with every tool available.”

Including Ohio, 23 states have passed laws that ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. Federal lawsuits challenging the bans have been met with mixed results.

In July, a panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals — which has jurisdiction over federal appeals filed in Ohio — became the first federal court to allow a previously blocked gender-affirming health care ban to take effect when it accepted a request by Tennessee’s attorney general to lift a lower court’s injunction. The 6th Circuit lifted an injunction on Kentucky’s ban the following week.

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