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Some say the Ohio bill that would ban transgender athletes from girls' sport teams goes too far

TRANS RIGHTS DEMONSTRATION
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Demonstrators outside the Ohio Statehouse showing support for transgender kids as a House committee hears a Republican backed bill to ban gender affirming treatments for minors under 18.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) says there's about 400,000 Ohio high schoolers participating in sports right now and only one transgender athlete on a girls' sports team. There are three transgender athletes competing at the middle school level. The OHSAA has a policy to make sure transgender athletes who participate on a girls’ team do not have physical advantages. The policy has been in place for seven years now. Fewer than a dozen transgender athletes have participated in sports programs overseen by the OHSAA during that time.

But late Wednesday night, as the first day of Pride Month came to a close, majority Republicans in the Ohio House passed a bill that would require K-12 schools as well as public and private colleges to “designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.” The text of the amendment had not been made widely available at the point that it was voted to be part of an education bill that, until the amendment was inserted, had widespread bipartisan support. After the amendment was attached, all of the Democrats who were inside the House chambers voted no on the bill.

There are several reasons why the Democrats took issue with it. Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) is a medical doctor who voted against the bill.

“This is truly bizarre medically and non-sensical,” Liston said.

Liston noted the bill would allow anyone – a disgruntled parent, player or someone looking for competitive advantage - to question a player as transgender. That player would be required to have a doctor evaluate her external and internal genitalia, testosterone levels and genetic makeup. The findings would then need to be reported back to the school so they could clear the athlete to play on the team. That process could take days, even weeks. Liston was visibly disgusted with the proposed amendment as she urged lawmakers to stay out of this issue.

"I struggle to understand why we keep discussing bills focusing on children's genitals," Liston said.

Democrat Phil Robinson (D-Solon) said he supported the original intent of the bill that would have given teachers mentoring and support. But he said adding this amendment, without having public hearings or testimony on it, was wrong and unnecessary.

"This is an issue searching for a problem that doesn't exist," Robinson said.

Robinson pointed out the Ohio House did the exact same thing a year ago when it attached the legislation to a bill allowing college athletes the right to earn money from their name, image and likeness (NIL). The Senate circumvented that effort and put in place another piece of legislation that allowed the NIL part of the bill to move forward. Robinson said federal courts have blocked similar legislation on transgender athletes that has passed in other states. And he says collegiate organizations are already on record as saying they will pull big events from Ohio if this goes through. Robinson estimated that would be a $300 to $400 million dollar loss per year to the state. Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) said this bill is politically motivated.

“This is not a real problem. This is a made up, let’s feed red meat to the base issue," Brown said.

But bill sponsor Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) said it’s necessary to protect the integrity of girls' sports.

“This bill ensures that every little girl who works hard to make it on a podium is not robbed of her chance by a “biological male” competing against her in a “biological female” sport.”," Powell said.

After the marathon House session was over, House Speaker Bob Cupp was asked about why this amendment was added, literally at the 11th hour.

In the end, majority Republicans voted for the bill, Democrats voted against it. The legislation now heads to the Senate but it won't be doing anything with it soon. There are not any more House or Senate sessions scheduled on the calendar until after the November 3 election later this year.

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