Ohio moves one step closer to banning transgender girls from playing girls’ sports

State lawmakers sent a blanket ban on transgender student-athletes to the House floor for a vote. What happens next?

On May 10, after months of public testimony, members of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee voted to pass an anti-transgender bill banning trans girls from competing in team sports from kindergarten through college.

The bill, called the “Save Women’s Sports Act” by its Republican sponsors, passed the committee by a vote of 8-6, and will advance to the House floor for a full vote.

More than 400,000 student-athletes compete in sports leagues or on school teams governed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), which maintains its own set of eligibility standards for Ohio student-athletes and has publicly condemned the bill.

According to the OHSAA, just seven of the 400,000 student-athletes currently competing are transgender.

The “Save Women’s Sports Act” advances to the Ohio House

State Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and co-sponsor Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.) first introduced the “Save Women’s Sports Act” in December 2020.

The original version included a clause addressing a “gender verification process” that could subject both transgender and cisgender athletes to invasive medical testing in order to participate.

During the bill’s first public hearing in April 2021, Stoltzfus told members of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee that he and Powell had drafted a substitute bill that eliminated the “medical examination” requirement.

Simultaneously, state Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) introduced the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” using at times identical language — as part of a national push to pass similar trans sports bans in 21 states.

The bill is assigned to the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee. Committee members have yet to hear public testimony on the bill.

Two months later, following the bill’s June 2021 public hearing, Powell attached the “Save Women’s Sports Act” to a separate piece of legislation, advancing it without proper committee oversight.

Ultimately, the amendment was cut from the bill on the Senate floor.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who opposes the bill, criticized Powell in the aftermath.

Sports organizations condemn the bill

Both the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and the OHSAA have publicly condemned the bill, including in a 2022 written statement provided directly to The Buckeye Flame by OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute.

“The Ohio High School Athletic Association transgender policy has been effectively implemented since 2015 and we have had no disruption to girls sports participation, championships or scholarships,” said OHSAA director of media relations Tim Stried in a written statement Thursday. “There are several layers to the policy and it has not created any kind of unfair advantage for transgender student-athletes.”

“There have been only 17 transgender female students participate since 2015 and we annually have approximately 400,000 student-athletes in Ohio,” Stried said. “The OHSAA encourages sports participation for all student-athletes and we are confident the current policy being implemented provides a fair opportunity for all.”

The Buckeye Flame also reached out to the NCAA for comment on the passage of HB 6, but had not received an official response at the time of publication.

What happens next?

Despite hundreds of public testimony submissions in opposition to the bill, Rep. Joe Miller, (D-Lorain), who opposes the bill, said Wednesday morning the bill’s sponsors were not interested in making any changes or amendments.

As is, the bill will reach the floor of the House still containing scientific and medical inaccuracies that deny the existence of intersex people — who account for roughly 1.7% of the general population.

The bill directly counters mainstream medical and mental health guidelines for transgender youth, who already face a suicide risk about four times as high as their cisgender peers

Gov. DeWine released a written statement opposing the bill, but has not explicitly said he would veto the “Save Women’s Sports Act” if it were passed.

With an overwhelming Republican majority in the state legislature — and at the crest of a national trend in anti-transgender legislation engineered by conservative faith-based non-profits like the Center for Christian Virtue — lawmakers could quickly vote to deliver HB 6 directly to Gov. DeWine’s desk. 🔥

This story was updated on May 11, 2023, to include a newly obtained statement from the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).

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