ACLU sues Ohio over ban on gender-affirming care for minors

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state of Ohio on Tuesday over a law set to take effect next month that bans gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Ohio lawmakers in January overrode Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation barring transgender minors from accessing treatments including puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgery. DeWine in December said the consequences of such a law for transgender children and their families “could not be more profound.”

The law, which also prevents transgender women and girls from competing on female school sports teams, is set to take effect on April 24. Minors receiving gender-affirming medical care prior to the law’s effective date are exempt from its health care-related restrictions.

Tuesday’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of two 12-year-old girls and their families, asks an Ohio court to block the law, House Bill 68, from taking effect, and to declare the measure’s restrictions on gender-affirming health care unconstitutional.

“The ban on gender-affirming care will cause severe harm to transgender youth. These personal, private medical decisions should remain between families and doctors; they don’t belong to politicians,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, which filed Tuesday’s lawsuit with the ACLU and the law firm Goodwin.

The lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, argues that the new Ohio law violates several sections of the state’s constitution, including the equal protection clause.

“Specifically, it discriminates against [transgender adolescents] based on their sex designated at birth, based on the incongruence between their sex and gender identity, based on their transgender status, and based on their failure to conform to stereotypes and expected behavior associated with their sex designated at birth,” the lawsuit states.

The new health care restrictions similarly discriminate against the parents of transgender minors, the lawsuit argues, by denying them the ability to secure care for their children that major medical organizations have said is medically necessary.

The law also contains more than one subject and therefore violates the state’s single-subject rule, the lawsuit argues.

Ohio lawmakers in June combined House Bill 68 with a separate measure to bar transgender student-athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“By combining these two discrete subject matters into a single bill, H.B. 68 contains a disunity of subject matter,” Tuesday’s lawsuit states. “In sum, the General Assembly passed a bill containing more than one subject, in violation of the Ohio Constitution.”

Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, who is named as a defendant in Tuesday’s lawsuit, said his office is prepared to defend the new law in court.

“We protect children with various restrictions that do not apply to adults—from signing legal contracts to buying alcohol and tobacco and more,” Yost said in a post on social media. “As I promised during the veto override, my office will defend this constitutional statute.”

Including Ohio, 24 states have either banned or heavily restricted access to gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and some adults. Bans enacted in Florida, Idaho and Montana have been blocked by court orders, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit organization that tracks LGBTQ laws.

A federal judge in June permanently blocked Arkansas’s 2021 ban, ruling it unconstitutional.

Gender-affirming health care is also set to be restricted in Ohio under a set of draft rules issued earlier this year by the state’s Department of Health and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

At least 24 states since 2020 have adopted laws preventing transgender student-athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. Temporary injunctions are blocking the enforcement of bans in Arizona, Idaho, West Virginia and Utah.

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