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Ohio House Ends Vacation Early to Challenge Governor Veto of Anti-Trans Law

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in his veto statement.

Mike DeWine speaks with supporters at the end of a campaign event at the Boat House at Confluence Park on November 2, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.

The Ohio House of Representatives is returning early from their vacation to expedite efforts to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of HB 68, a bill that would prohibit transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care and ban transgender girls from playing on female sports teams in high school and college.

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” DeWine said in his veto message. “Many parents have told me that their child would be dead today if they had not received the treatment they received from an Ohio children’s hospital. I have also been told, by those that are now grown adults, that but for this care, they would have taken their lives when they were teenagers.”

DeWine’s veto was celebrated by transgender rights advocates.

“Ohio families don’t want politicians meddling in decisions that should be between parents, their kids and their doctors. Instead, parents, schools and doctors should all do everything they can to make all youth, including transgender youth, feel loved and accepted, and politicians should not be making it harder for them to do so,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “Thank you to Gov. DeWine for listening to the people of his state and making the right decision for young trans Ohioans.”

Research shows that transgender youth with access to gender-affirming care have lower rates of depression and suicidal ideation. Because of this, over 30 leading medical organizations have endorsed the use of gender-affirming care to treat gender dysphoria.

“If this bill becomes law, it will be devastating to kids and their families who are already at their most vulnerable and will place an insurmountable barrier between patients and their medical professionals for often lifesaving care,” the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association said in a statement in December.

Studies have repeatedly shown that gender-affirming care bans and trans sport bans have a detrimental effect on the mental health of transgender children. A recent study by the Trevor Project found that policies banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and transgender boys from playing on boys’ sports teams made 64 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth feel angry, 44 percent feel sad, 39 percent feel stressed, and 30 percent feel hopeless. The study also showed that policies banning doctors from providing gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth made 74 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth feel angry and 59 percent feel stressed.

“What so many of these young people and their families have also told me is that nothing they have faced in life could ever prepare them for this extremely tough journey. Parents are making decisions about the most precious thing in their life, their child, and none of us should underestimate the gravity and the difficulty of those decisions,” DeWine said in his veto statement.

After DeWine vetoed the discriminatory anti-trans bill, former president Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy put extreme pressure on Ohio legislators to override the veto. Though HB 68 originally passed the Ohio House 62 to 27 and 24 to 8 in the Senate, conservatives may not have the necessary three-fifths votes in the House and the Senate to override DeWine’s veto. While only 59 votes are needed in the House, advocates believe that some legislators may balk at the idea of overriding a governor veto or may not make it to the January 10 vote date.

“Now, the bill returns to the legislature, offering a temporary reprieve for families and parents of transgender youth,” transgender activist Erin Reed wrote. “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.”

If the House does succeed in overriding the veto, the legislation will proceed to the Senate for approval and subsequently take effect after 90 days. However, the law would likely be challenged in court, as other gender-affirming care bans across the country are currently being challenged by the Department of Justice and transgender rights groups.

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