Protests break out as Ohio lawmakers hear two controversial bills affecting transgender youth
Opponents of two controversial Republican-backed bills affecting transgender youth packed into two of the smallest hearing rooms in the Ohio Statehouse as testimony on the legislation was being heard. It was standing room only in an overflow room designated to accommodate those who couldn't fit into one of the hearing rooms.
Outside those rooms, in a nearby hallway, supporters and members of Ohio's LGBTQ communities congregated and, at one point, raised their voices in frustration. They chanted "Protect Trans Youth," creating an echo that could be heard on the other side of the building inside the Senate chamber.
House Bill 6 would ban transgender athletes from participating in women's sports in Ohio's elementary, middle and high schools as well as state and private colleges. Parker Parker, a trans male who plays on the Olentangy High School Women's field hockey team, will be graduating high school soon. But he said while most of the discussion on this bill has been around trans athletes whose gender was assigned as male at birth and want to participate on a women's sports team, this bill would affect others in his situation too.
“I don’t have another option. I have to play on the women's team because there is no men's," Parker said.
Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) said when she read about the controversy over a trans athlete in Connecticut who some cisgender athletes blamed for having an unfair physical advantage, she wanted to learn more about how the same situation would be handled in Ohio. She said she found the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) already has a good policy in place for trans athletes who want to play on women's teams
“They make sure that they have the same lung capacity, the same bone capacity," Manning said.
Manning suggested lawmakers look at putting that policy into law instead of passing this ban on trans athletes in women's sports.
Down the hallway, in the House Public Health Policy Committee, the sponsor of a bill that would ban hormones and gender affirming surgeries on childrenunder 18 years of age was explaining his legislation. Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), who is also a pastor, testified his bill would prevent young people from making permanent decisions and undergoing what he called "radical" and "experimental" treatments that he said they'd regret later.
"Now we have a number of these kids who have started on this progress as they grow up, they look back at themselves and they say 'how did adults let me make this decision?' I was not competent. I was not capable to make that choice," Click said.
Click disagreed with representatives on the committee who are also physicians. Dr. Beth Liston (D-Dublin), who's also an emergency medicine doctor, told Click he was disregarding science and important medical studies.
"Your contention is that all of the medical organizations make their decisions just based on a couple of people's opinion when, in fact, medication organizations review all of the body of literature. They are the experts in their field to review the information," Liston said.
Click said medical organizations in Europe have done more study on the issue and are starting to reverse course by stopping procedures and medical treatments on minors. Some members of Ohio's LGBTQ community listened as Click gave his sponsor testimony.
At one point, one of the members of the audience made a verbal outburst when Click spoke about "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria" and suggested Facebook was encouraging kids to seek out these treatments. Chairman Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) immediately interrupted to admonish the protestor, pointing a finger at them and warned he would have security forces remove anyone in the room who made another outburst.
"Security is in the room. Try me," Lipps said.
More than three dozen Republican lawmakers have signed on to support Click's bill so far. The Human Rights Campaign reports 16 states have passed laws banning gender affirming care for minors. Another 16, including Ohio, are considering it.