Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took the extraordinary step of vetoing a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Ohio. His move will be remembered alongside famous vetoes by Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah, who opposed anti-transgender measures proposed by Republican legislatures in their states. Due to DeWine’s veto, the bill must now return to the Ohio legislature, where a three-fifths vote is required to override the veto and pass the bill over the governor’s objections.
“Parents have looked me in the eye and told me that but for this treatment, their child would be dead,” he said. “And youth who are transgender have told me they are thriving today because of their transition.”
He then spoke about his individual discussions with those parents: “What so many of these young people and their families have also told me was that nothing they’ve ever faced in their life could prepare them for this tough journey. Parents are making decisions for the most precious thing in their life: their child. These are gut wrenching decisions that should be made by parents, and should be informed by teams of doctors that are advising them.”
He then reiterated the importance parents rights, “While the parents doctors inform those decisions, it is the parents who know their child best… Were Ohio to pass HB68, Ohio would be saying that the state knows what is better, what is medically best for the child, than the two people who love that child the most: the parents.”
When asked what was the biggest influence on his decision, he cited his conversation with parents as well as testimony from directors and doctors of Ohio’s Children’s Hospitals, which rank #1 in the United States.
He closed, “I cannot sign this bill as it is currently written. Just a few minutes ago, I vetoed this bill.”
The bill, House Bill 68, sponsored by Rep. Gary Click, a right-wing pastor, combines both a gender affirming care ban and a sports ban. Click has acknowledged practicing conversion therapy. Under the proposed law, gender-affirming care for transgender youth would be prohibited, and transgender individuals would be excluded from a wide range of sports, from dance to darts, in both high schools and colleges. If Ohio enacts this bill, it will become the 22nd state to explicitly outlaw gender-affirming care for minors. Notably, all these states have seen such legislation driven by Republican supermajorities.
The legislation received swift and strong opposition in the state. Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson, a Democratic senator sitting on the committee that passed the bill, noted that there were 525 opponents to only 43 proponents that submitted testimony. Most of the proponents of the legislation came from out of state and included high profile right-wing figures like Riley Gaines and Chloe Cole. Testifying against the bill, however, were leading representatives from most major medical organizations in the United States and Ohio, including the Ohio Children’s Hospitals. Others who testified included parents of trans youth in the state, the trans kids themselves, business leaders, therapists, and local activists. Significantly, even many detransitioners — individuals who previously identified as transgender but have since returned to a cisgender identity — spoke out against the bill. This fact is particularly noteworthy considering the right wing’s use of detransition narratives as a tool to target transgender individuals, despite detransitioning being a relatively rare occurrence among transgender people.
Despite widespread opposition, Republicans gave attention to conservative supporters of the bill who argued that rejecting transgender individuals was the appropriate approach. “Partners for Ethical Care,” an organization comprising parents who oppose their transgender children’s gender identities, likened being transgender to an addiction that needs treatment. Furthermore, the Alliance Defending Freedom, known for its involvement in drafting and defending such bills, also advocated in favor of the legislation. This stance aligns with the organization’s history of association with the ‘ex-gay’ movement and its ongoing defense of conversion therapy for both gay and transgender individuals
This veto is crucial as it grants transgender youth in Ohio additional time to access medical care and provides families the opportunity to exert further pressure on Republican legislators. Some may interpret Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto as an indication to reassess the bill. DeWine, a popular governor with a 57% approval rating in Ohio, wields significant influence within the state’s Republican Party. His position could signal that the bill may not enjoy the level of popularity its Republican sponsors have claimed.
Gender affirming care, the kind banned by this bill, saves lives. There is extraordinary amounts of evidence backing that up: some studies have reported up to 73% decreases in suicidality among trans youth who are allowed to obtain it. These findings were replicated as early two weeks ago, when a journal article was published in the prestigious Journal of Adolescent Health, puberty blockers were associated with a significant reduction in depression and anxiety. The endorsement of gender affirming care is supported by a collection of over 50 journal articles compiled by Cornell University, all of which underscore its beneficial effects.
The veto statement included some caveats. Gov. Mike DeWine announced his intention to use administrative processes to prohibit surgeries in the state and to gather data on transgender care for both youth and adults. However, the most concerning aspect of Gov. DeWine’s announcement was the potential for increased scrutiny of transgender adults in Ohio. The specifics of these administrative processes and rules are yet to be determined.
Now, the bill returns to the legislature, offering a temporary reprieve for families and parents of transgender youth. Meanwhile, Republicans face a pivotal decision: prioritize the welfare of Ohio families and adhere to best medical practices, or yield to conservative influencers who advocate for policies detrimental to transgender youth for political gain.
This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.