Tuesday, October 4

13 Questions & Answers From First Hearing of Ohio HB 61, the “Save Women’s Sports Act”

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HB 61—dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act”—had its first hearing today in the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.

If passed, the bill would require schools, state institutions of higher education, and private colleges to designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex. The bill further stipulates that, “if a participant’s sex is disputed, the participant shall establish the participant’s sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement indicating the participant’s sex.”

After the bill’s sponsors—Representatives Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Reggie Stoltzfus (R – Minerva)—provided opening remarks, they were questioned by several members of the committee. Here are 13 of the questions asked and the answers that were provided during today’s hearing.

[Editor’s note: The Buckeye Flame has included exact terminology Ohio Representatives used in today’s hearing to refer to the transgender community. This choice reflects our efforts to be transparent about their words and not our view that this language is accurate or acceptable. It is not.]

1. Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati): Who in Ohio brought you this bill?
Powell: We’re here on behalf of every little girl and families and individuals in our state. There are many girls who are now looking at athletics and saying, “I thought if I worked hard enough, then I could compete on a level playing field to end up on the gold podium.” But unfortunately, when little girls are not only looking at our state but around the United States, they’re seeing that this might not be an opportunity for them any longer.

2. Rep Ingram: My concern is that what we’ve negated is that there are transgenders. When you continue to say biological—which I think you said 10 times in your presentation—that disallows their participation…Have you discussed this with the NCAA or our higher ed institutions here in Ohio? Because this affects them as well.
Rep. Stoltzfus: I personally have not had that conversation with higher ed.

3. Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) I was looking through the bill analysis of the verification of participant’s sex…how does this respect the privacy between the doctor and the patient
Rep. Stoltzfus: We have a sub-bill drafted. In that sub-bill We have taken out the medical examination for verification. There is no exam in the substitute bill, there is no invasion to privacy, there is nothing that the student has to prove to anybody.

4. Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery): Do you have any statistics/numbers on the percentage  of transgendered individuals statistically in our state or in general?
Rep. Powell: I don’t have that number exactly in front of me right away. But what this bill specifically does is allow everyone to compete in the state of Ohio. What it specifically does is protect the integrity of women’s sports in our state. To be clear, everybody still has the ability to compete in our state. This strengthens Title IX and women’s rights in our state.

5. Rep Phillip Robinson (D-Solon) Is it potentially possible this bill will be found unconstitutional?
Rep. Stoltzfus: Any bill we pass here could be found unconstitutional. It will go to the courts, I’m sure. That doesn’t mean we stop fighting for women’s rights. We continue the fight.

6. Rep Robinson: In the last six years in Ohio, we’ve had about 11 transgender girls competing that have been approved out of a million athletes. Is there something that’s happening in Ohio that’s driving this bill?
Rep. Stoltzfus: You can look at this two ways. You can look at that as giving the rights to 11 biological males to participate on sports teams. Or you could look at it as that we’ve stripped the rights of hundreds or thousands of biological females who now have to complete with biological males. My view of it is that we’ve stripped the rights of biological females and forced them to complete against someone who is stronger, faster, and has more endurance than them.

7. Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati): As you’re probably aware, Arkansas has passed—and `15 other states are considering—a law to prohibit hormone and surgery to those who would request it on this issue until that individual reaches a certain age. If Ohio were to pass such a law, how would that affect your bill?
Rep. Powell: Obviously , that’s a different piece of legislation than what we’re discussing here. We want every little girl to be able compete. There definitely would be some issues if that were signed into law…but I would say that’s a different piece of legislation that we would need to discuss at a different time.

8. Rep Joe Miller (D-Amherst): At times you mentioned women’s sports, and at times you mentioned little girls, and at times you mentioned scholarships being withheld, and at times you mentioned the inability for these little girls to compete against transgender kids…11 little girls—out of almost 12 million people in Ohio—that are transgender that want to be engaged in the female sport because they identify there. How many of these little girls at 12 or 13 are getting scholarships or having their scholarships removed? How many of them have gotten beat on the court in basketball and Ohio State has come down to that 13-year-old and said, “You got taken to school by that transgender young student athlete, and so we’re going to pull an Ohio state scholarship form you because of that”?
Rep. Powell: While there are over 11 million people in our state, as a representative, I represent one. I want to be the voice of every little girl in the community…Every voice matters.

9. Rep. Miller: There are Ohio state holders of championships who are transgender in women’s sports?
Rep. Powell: Across the nation there are. We’re working on this piece of legislation right now so that a little girl’s opportunity is not robbed.

10. Representative Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville): I have a number of transgender individuals in my district with whom I’ve spoken…When men and women, boys and girls, who choose to go through a transgender modification, they do so because at their heart, they were designated the wrong gender, the wrong sex. It’s for them I am speaking now. Do you have any idea how many trans boys and girls in Ohio suffer all kinds of mental anguish over the choices they feel they must make? Whether their families support them or not, it’s a difficult, difficult thing. In my opinion, this bill is going to harm their mental health. I know you’re concerned about the little girls in your district, but we all need to be as concerned about everyone in our district and those for whom sex designation is not as clear cut as we might think it is. They may suffer mental anguish over yet again another bill that is going to minimize their decision and not be supportive of their mental health and their ability to present themselves to the world in the gender they know themselves to be.
Rep. Powell: My heart goes out to hurting Ohio children. We have many children that are hurting in numerous ways. There’s nothing I want to see more than Ohio children thriving. We want to see children thrive in our state, but we are not excluding anyone in our bill. We are just fighting for little girls to compete on a level playing field. All of your issues would be addressed then.

11. Rep. Click: We talk about mental health and depression and we should all be concerned about that for anyone regardless of how they identify themselves. But we have to include little girls that you mentioned. If a young lady loses out on a scholarship or loses out on a gold medal to someone who has a biological advantage over her due to his XY chromosomes, how do you think that affects the mental health of young ladies?
Rep. Powell: Every little girl deserves to complete on a level playing field. It actually boggles my mind that we live in a world that is pro-women, and empowers women, they can achieve the world and then, all of a sudden, we want biological males to compete in female-only sports. If in today’s society we’re so pro-woman and women can do what they want to do and they can achieve their American dream, then why would we strip away their athletic opportunity, their female opportunity, their college scholarships by allowing biological males to compete against them. That has to be very difficult for them when it happens.

12. Rep. Ingram: Does this mean the young lady who was a kicker on the varsity football team will not be able to participate or compete?
Rep. Powell: This bill is about protecting the integrity of female-only sports in the state of Ohio.

13. Rep. Ingram: No. This bill talks about all sports being one-sex only. Does that mean that that young lady would not be able to compete on that football field, even as the kicker, who, by the way, made the tackle from the guy who got the ball and stopped him from scoring?
Rep. Powell: What you’re asking is verified in the sub-bill. It is in that because we wanted to clarify that issue to ensure everyone understood the intention of our piece of legislation. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • Do your research. Initiate dialogue about trans athletes AFTER you have read up on the important talking points you need to grasp before being challenged. The ACLU guide is a great place to start. 
  • Equality Ohio is collecting stories from trans athletes. Share your story here.

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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