Ohio lawmakers override DeWine veto of gender-affirming care ban, transgender athlete restrictions

The Ohio Senate voted 23-9 Wednesday to override Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation banning gender-affirming health care for minors and preventing transgender women and girls from competing on female school sports teams.

Ohio now joins nearly two dozen other GOP-led states that have adopted similar laws after the state House also voted earlier this month to overturn the veto.

LGBTQ advocates, medical professionals and families of transgender children have largely condemned the bill, and hundreds of opponents — including the president of Ohio’s Children’s Hospital Association — testified against House Bill 68 during public hearings last year. A similar bill filed last session by Ohio House Republicans died in committee after nearly 300 witnesses submitted opponent testimony.

DeWine vetoed House Bill 68 on Dec. 29, telling reporters at a press conference that such a measure, if allowed to become law, would do more harm than good.

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” he said. “Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived — would be dead today — if they had not received the treatment they received from one of Ohio’s children’s hospitals.”

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The measure now goes into effect in 90 days.

DeWine has so far declined to say whether he supports the bill’s restrictions on transgender student-athletes. In a 2021 statement, he said he believes the issue is “best addressed outside of government.”

Gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and adults is considered medically necessary by every major medical organization, though not every trans person chooses to medically transition or has access to care.

DeWine is only the second Republican governor to veto legislation banning gender-affirming care; the first was former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), a former presidential candidate.

Including DeWine, only three Republican governors have vetoed bills barring transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

Beyond the Legislature, access to gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and adults in Ohio is set to be heavily restricted under proposed administrative rules filed earlier this month by the state Health Department.

The proposed regulations have drawn criticism from LGBTQ rights groups and medical professionals, who say the rules would make Ohio one of the most restrictive states in the nation with respect to gender-affirming care. In a joint statement, The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Ohio said the rules could amount to a “de facto ban” on care.

An executive order signed Jan. 5 by DeWine prohibits transition-related surgeries for minors, which health care providers in the state have said are already not performed on those younger than 18.

DeWine during his Dec. 29 press conference said the notion that such surgeries are being performed on minors in Ohio is “frankly, a fallacy.”

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