Ohio has become the latest battleground for LGBTQ+ rights, as several bills targeting the community have been proposed or passed by the state legislature. These bills have sparked outrage and resistance from LGBTQ+ activists, allies, and families, who say they are discriminatory and harmful.
House Bill 68 bans gender-affirming care and sports participation
The most controversial bill is House Bill 68, also known as the “Saving Adolescents From Experimentation Act”. This bill would ban transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care, such as hormone therapy or surgery, and prevent transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports.
The bill was passed by the Ohio House and Senate in December 2023, but vetoed by Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, who said he had concerns about the bill’s impact on transgender youth and their families. DeWine said he had spoken to parents of transgender children who had benefited from gender-affirming care, and that these decisions should be left to them, not the government.
However, on January 10, 2024, the Ohio House voted to override DeWine’s veto, with a 65-28 vote along party lines. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate, which will convene on January 24. If the Senate also votes to override the veto, the bill will become law.
Supporters of the bill argue that it is necessary to protect children from irreversible and experimental treatments, and to ensure fairness and safety in women’s sports. They claim that gender-affirming care is harmful and that transgender girls have an unfair advantage over cisgender girls.
Opponents of the bill counter that it is based on misinformation and prejudice, and that it violates the human rights and dignity of transgender youth. They cite medical and scientific evidence that gender-affirming care is safe and effective, and that transgender girls do not pose a threat to women’s sports. They also warn that the bill could lead to increased mental health issues, suicide, and discrimination for transgender youth.
Other anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration
House Bill 68 is not the only anti-LGBTQ+ bill that has been introduced or debated in the Ohio legislature. Other bills include:
- House Bill 6, which would allow parents to opt their children out of any instruction or activity that addresses sexual orientation or gender identity.
- House Bill 8, which would prohibit public schools and colleges from teaching or promoting “divisive concepts” such as systemic racism, sexism, or LGBTQ+ oppression.
- House Bill 113, which would prohibit public employers from providing health insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for their employees or dependents.
- House Bill 183, which would allow health care providers to refuse to perform or participate in any service that violates their conscience, including those related to LGBTQ+ health.
These bills have been met with similar criticism and opposition from LGBTQ+ advocates, who say they are part of a coordinated attack on the community’s rights and well-being.
Ohioans rally for LGBTQ+ equality and justice
In response to the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, many Ohioans have taken to the streets and social media to voice their support for the LGBTQ+ community and demand action from their lawmakers. Rallies, vigils, and protests have been held across the state, featuring speakers, signs, chants, and songs.
Some of the slogans and messages seen and heard at these events include:
- “Trans rights are human rights”
- “Let kids be kids”
- “Love is love”
- “Stop the hate”
- “We are not experiments”
- “Protect trans youth”
- “My child, my choice”
- “No hate in our state”
Many of the participants are LGBTQ+ individuals, parents, families, and friends, who share their personal stories and experiences. They express their fears, frustrations, and hopes for the future. They also call on their fellow Ohioans to stand with them and vote for pro-LGBTQ+ candidates and policies.
Some of the organizers and supporters of these events include:
- Equality Ohio, a statewide advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights
- TransOhio, a nonprofit organization that serves the transgender and gender non-conforming community
- ACLU of Ohio, a civil liberties and civil rights organization
- Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy group
- GLSEN, a national organization that works to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ students
- PFLAG, a national organization that unites LGBTQ+ people with their families and allies
These groups and others have also launched campaigns, petitions, and lawsuits to challenge the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and to promote LGBTQ+ equality and justice in Ohio.
Ohio’s history and future on LGBTQ+ issues
Ohio has a mixed record on LGBTQ+ issues, with some progress and setbacks over the years. Some of the milestones and challenges include:
- In 2004, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage in the state.
- In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, overturning Ohio’s ban and allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state.
- In 2018, Ohio became the 14th state to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, a practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- In 2019, Ohio added gender identity and expression to its hate crime law, making it a felony to target someone based on their actual or perceived gender identity or expression.
- In 2020, Ohio issued its first gender-neutral driver’s license, allowing residents to choose “X” as their gender marker instead of “M” or “F”.
- In 2021, Ohio passed its first statewide nondiscrimination law that protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The current anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has put Ohio at a crossroads, as the state faces a choice between advancing or reversing its progress on LGBTQ+ rights. The outcome of the legislative and legal battles will have significant implications for the lives and futures of LGBTQ+ Ohioans and their families.