Friday, January 27

Anti-transgender HB 454 postponed; Ohio House considers statewide LGBTQ+ protections

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LGBTQ+ advocates across the state expressed relief on Tuesday after House Bill 454 — which would ban gender affirming healthcare for Ohio’s trans youth  — was placed on hold in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Almost simultaneously, the House Commerce and Labor Committee heard testimony on the Ohio Fairness Act — which would protect LGBTQ+ Ohioans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for the first time at the state level.

LGBTQ+ Ohioans have fought hard against HB 454 for more than a year, and are calling the postponement a win.

Coupled with the first hearing of the Ohio Fairness Act, LGBTQ+ advocates and organizations have said they are optimistic about the future, even as they stressed the ongoing importance of maintaining the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and protections.

Vote on House Bill 454 pushed to 2023

House Bill 454 was first introduced in October 2021 by conservative State Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), a Baptist pastor who was approached with the bill’s language by the Center for Christian Virtue (CVC) — an Ohio-based, anti-LGBTQ+ public policy group.

Versions of the bill have contained both religious language and numerous medical and scientific inaccuracies. Currently, HB 454 goes against the guidance of every major medical association in the United States.

While some young transgender people take hormone blockers or begin hormone replacement therapy as they enter their teens, for many young transgender people, gender affirming care is often as simple as receiving a routine check-up from a doctor who uses a their name and pronouns correctly.

Studies have shown that banning gender affirming care could trigger an increase in suicide rates among transgender youth, who are already at much higher risk for suicide and self-harm than their straight, cisgender peers.

At the bill’s fifth hearing in November, Amy Schneider — native Ohioan and the first transgender Jeopardy! champion — flew in from California to give public testimony opposing the bill, along with hundreds of other LGBTQ+ people, allies and experts.

State Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) called the bill’s pause a “momentous victory” for LGBTQ+ youth.

“I want to thank the brave family members, allies and medical professionals who testified before the committee for sharing their personal stories and evidence-based, scientific positions that clearly made an impact on the future of this bill.”

Ohio House considers statewide LGBTQ+ protections

On Tuesday, the Commerce and Labor Committee also heard testimony in support of the Ohio Fairness Act (House Bill 208), which would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and conservative State Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville).

Earlier this year, Hillyer voiced public support for then-Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, who spread violent misinformation about transgender people during his Statehouse campaign.

During testimony, Hillyer acknowledged his unlikely sponsorship of the bill, pointing to economic growth as motivation for bipartisan support.

“Without nondiscrimination policies in place, Ohio falls behind economically,” he said, citing Ohio Business Competes, a coalition of more than 1,300 businesses across the state that support the bill — including Proctor and Gamble, Honda, Key Bank, Huntington Bank, AT&T and several major Ohio chambers of commerce. 

Companies often choose site locations based on scoring systems that takes into account whether or not an area already has laws in place banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Both Hillyer and Skindell said non-discrimination laws could help boost Ohio’s economic growth — expanding investment and recruitment, creating more jobs and attracting more businesses and employees to the state.

Statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy and legal aid organization Equality Ohio also supports the bill, and encourages Ohioans to contact their representatives in support of the Ohio Fairness Act with a simple message: “An inclusive Ohio is better for everyone.”

About Author

H.L. Comeriato is the staff writer for The Buckeye Flame. A queer and non-binary writer and reporter from Akron, Ohio, they covered public health for The Devil Strip via Report for America.

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