Tuesday, December 6

“This is a Shameful Day” – Ohio House Republicans Hijack Unrelated Bill to Ban Trans Athletes; Senate Rejects Bill

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On Thursday evening, Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives ambushed a completely unrelated bill to railroad language through the legislative process that bans trans athletes from participating in high school and college sports.

Mere hours after the Thursday morning Primary and Secondary Education Committee’s second reading of HB 61 (the “Save Women’s Sports Act”) featuring proponent testimony, Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) discarded procedural norms and attached the language as an amendment to SB 187, a bill to allow intercollegiate athletes to earn compensation for their names.

Chaos erupted immediately when Powell read in her amendment, with opponents attempting to drown her out via banging on their tables and shouting.

Following Powell’s introduction of the amendment, Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) called the proceedings a “shameful day in this body today.”

“This is one of the most extreme political attacks on transgender people in the nation,” said Skindell.

Rep. Phillip Robinson (D-Solon) highlighted that Powell’s amendment was in opposition to the process that was supposed to follow the proponent testimony that took place just hours before.

“We said we were going to hear from the opponents probably in the fall. That never happened,” said Robinson. “Five hours later an amendment was presented, which I’m not even sure was 24 hours notice.”

Robinson also highlighted the devastating economic impact the amendment would have on Ohio given the NCAA’s stance that they would pull funding from states with this legislation.

In her support of the amendment, Rep. Jean Schmidt rehashed everything she said earlier in the day at the proponent testimony. She never once mentioned that the process had been circumvented, instead delivering roughly the same remarks—including holding up the same book, giving up on pronouncing Martina Navratilova’s last name, and quoting Caitlin Jenner as a primary source—that she delivered hours earlier, as if it were the same hearing.

Reps. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) and Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.) both spoke about daughters and granddaughters, with neither of them mentioning the legislative body was not following normal process.

Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) attempted to table the amendment. That motion failed.

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) expressed her “disgust” about the proceedings and her concern that passing the amendment would set up Ohio to look like the “center of hate in the United States of America.” She highlighted what she saw as the irony in her Republican colleagues’ arguments concerning protecting women.

“We have people on the floor saying, ‘I want to protect women. I want to protect women,'” said Brent. “If our chamber really wanted to protect women, we would have passed Aisha’s Law. We would made sure we had equal pay for equal work. We would have made sure we went and had the phone number for anonymous discrimination. We would have the Save Our Mothers Act. Most of these bills can’t even get two hearings. This little rinky-dink [Save Women’s Sports Act] amendment didn’t even have a full process and it made it to the floor.”

The amendment passed by a vote of 54-40 and was incorporated into the bill. Minutes later, the bill then passed by a vote of 57-36.

The bill then went back to the Senate—where it had passed unanimously without the Save Women’s Sports Act language—for additional debate on the new amendment and a second vote to reconcile the Senate version with the House version. Within hours, the Senate rejected the amendment and again passed the original legislation regarding athletes benefiting from their personal “name, image and likeness” without the trans athletes ban.

On Thursday evening, Equality Ohio urged opponents of the Save Women’s Sports Act to call Senate President Matt Huffman to keep the bill from moving forward, a strategy they later posted was successful.

The bill now heads back to the House.

Following the proceedings in the House, several representatives issued statements in response to the amendment.

During this last week of pride month, Ohio House Republicans showed their true colors today, ramming through a divisive, discriminatory ban on transgender girls from participating in sports in Ohio. This bill tears at the heart of what sports are supposed to be—a place where we come together to develop new skills, learn the importance of teamwork and play the games we love. Make no mistake, this isn’t about protecting girls—it’s about pushing an outdated and bigoted ideology that hurts trans people and sends the message that LGBTQ Ohioans aren’t welcome on the field, on the court, or as valued members of our community. It’s a shame that this amendment tainted an otherwise good bill to empower collegiate athletes. -Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo), Chair of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Legislative Caucus

On the same day—and in the same bill—that we removed outdated name, image and likeness regulations that for decades have worked against collegiate athletes, Ohio Republicans inserted a divisive, draconian ban on transgender women and girls from participating in sports in Ohio. This extreme amendment is based in misinformation, fear and bigotry. Sports should be welcoming, safe places for all to play the games they love—not a battlefield for outdated and dangerous ideologies that will harm trans Ohioans. -Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) 

Ignite Action:

  • If you are a transgender athlete or ally, you can share your story here.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining just how harmful this bill is and why your elected officials should oppose it.

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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