Supporters of Ohio "bathroom bill" say it's needed because girls are afraid. Opponents have doubts.
Supporters turned out to testify for a so-called "bathroom bill" stating K-12 schools and public colleges and universities in Ohio must require students to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. But Democratic members of the committee that heard their remarks were skeptical about possible other reasons why the bill has been proposed.
The Republican-sponsored bill doesn’t reference trans people but the 17-page document bans students from using bathrooms or locker rooms that don’t correspond to their “biological sex.”
Kelly Kohls, president of the board of directors at the Ohio School Boards Leadership Council, testified in support of the legislation. She is also with the group Moms for America. And she told lawmakers girls are afraid to use the bathroom and locker room these days.
“They already see themselves as prey then to see that no one really cares and in fact, adults make decisions to place them in even more danger by telling young boys and men they are free to invade private spaces," Kohls said.
But ranking minority member Rep. Joe Miller (D-Lorain) pushed back on that. He said he’s noticed that’s not consistent with what students are saying when they testified against the legislation.
“Many of the students coming before us, both trans and straight, have stated that this isn’t an issue," Miller said.
Advocates for trans students have testified forcing them to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender on their birth certificates put them in danger of bullying or violence.
Some lawmakers have pointed out there is another potential problem with this bill since no language in it specifies how this policy would be enforced or policed.
Earlier this month, more than 100 people either spoke or filed testimony in opposition of the bill.
One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond), said the legislation is needed because of a directive from the Biden administration in 2022 that said trans students can use the bathroom they feel corresponds with their gender identity. That directive was blocked by a federal judge in Tennessee after 20 Republican attorneys general, including Ohio's AG Dave Yost, brought a lawsuit.
"The judicial branch has issued rulings, and I believe that it's time for the legislative branch in Ohio to make law on an issue that is very important to the parents in Ohio," Bird said.
At that same hearing, Democrats asked about which bathroom should be used by students who are intersex or aren't cisgender, how schools would ensure that the rules in the bill are followed, and how the bill protects women and girls when nearly all sexual assaults are committed by cisgender men.
This is the latest legislation affecting Ohio's LGBTQ population. Earlier this year, the Ohio House passed a bill that blocked gender-affirming treatment for minors and banned trans athletes from competing in girls' sports. And even though it was listed as priority legislation for the Ohio Senate this year, it has yet to pass out of that chamber.