Friday, January 27

LGBTQ+ advocates and lawmakers call defeat of HB 151 containing trans sports ban “a win”

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

When the Ohio House voted down HB 151 at 2:30am on Thursday morning, the issue of banning trans youth from athletic participation was put to rest for the time being.

After the bill passed out of Senate committee on Wednesday afternoon, the full Ohio Senate passed HB 151 at 10:30pm after Republicans added more than 2,000 pages of education reform to the bill, gutting the powers of state Board of Education. They also added an amendment that prohibited schools from discriminating against a student who has not had a COVID vaccine.

In their 2:30am vote, the House did not ratify the Senate’s changes. There has been significant resistance in the past few weeks to the proposed education reform, particularly from conservative Ohioans who thought the bill would restrict homeschooling.

Ohio lawmakers had previously said this would be their last working week of 2022, so it appears likely that HB 151 is dead. For now.

The pre-dawn vote caps two years of activity spent attempting to ban trans youth in Ohio from sports, including a “shameful” hijack of the House floor in 2021, an “appalling” ambush of the House floor in 2022, five hearings, hundreds of pieces of submitted testimony, and many hours of Ohioans testifying in person to allow trans youth to be able to play.

On Tuesday, Ember Zelch, the only trans athlete currently approved by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) to compete in the entire state of Ohio, testified.

“Being a trans athlete isn’t easy, especially when you have to try and prove that you deserve something as simple as the basic right to try out for a sport, something that all your peers take for granted,” said Zelch.

LGBTQ+ advocates and lawmakers are calling the defeat of HB 151 “a win.”

“What I’m hoping people take away from what just happened is that when people show up, when they speak their truth, when they show up at committee hearings, there’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get a win, but wins do happen,” said Senator Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Ohio’s sole out LGBTQ+ legislator. “And I truly believe this is a win.”

Equality Ohio sent out a similar message to supporters on Thursday afternoon.

“Let me be clear: we won. And we won because of you,” said Alana Jochum, executive director. “You shared your personal stories with lawmakers. You made calls and sent emails to committee members and legislative leadership. And together, we used our collective power to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized among us from attacks upon their right to play sports and to receive affirming healthcare. Because of you, transgender girls in Ohio will continue to have the opportunity to play the sports they love.”

Antonio acknowledged the issue might likely return, but that she is encouraged by her conversations with her Republican colleagues.

“A handful of them have initiated conversations with me that they think it’s wrong for children to not be able to participate in sports,” she said. “And more than one person said, ‘I just found out that I have a transgender kid in my family.”

Antonio also stressed the importance of Ohioans speaking up.

“All those people speaking their truth and being their authentic selves made a difference,” she said. “Advocacy, testifying, showing up, those things all create social change.” 🔥

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.

Share this piece.