Governor Vetoes Trans Ban: It's 'About Protecting Human Life'

GOP's Mike DeWine of Ohio bucks own party, nixes ban on gender-affirming care, sports play
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 29, 2023 10:55 AM CST
GOP Governor Bucks His Own Party, Vetoes Trans Ban
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news conference on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a measure Friday that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors and transgender athletes' participation in girls and women's sports, in a break from members of his party who championed the legislation. GOP lawmakers hold enough seats to override DeWine's veto, but if or when they would do so wasn't immediately clear. Both within and between chambers, Republican legislators haven't been in lockstep this year. In a presser Friday, DeWine said he'd listened to people on both sides of the legislation who "truly believe their position best protects children," per the AP. He found that the bill would affect a small number of Ohio children, "but for those children who face gender dysphoria and for their families, the consequences of this bill could not be more profound."

"Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life," he said, announcing his decision to veto the legislation. "While there are rare times in the law in other circumstances where the state overrules the medical decisions made by the parents, I can think of no examples where this is done where it is not only against the decision of the parent, but also against the medical judgment of the treating physician and against the judgment of the treating team of medical experts. Therefore, I cannot sign this bill as it currently written." DeWine did say, however, that he believed there were administrative actions that could address the main concerns of the bill. For instance, he's directing agencies to ban surgery on those under 18 as part of gender-affirming care, noting that he believes it's a "fallacy out there that this goes right to surgery."

DeWine also said his administration will draft rules and restrictions to prevent "pop-up clinics or fly-by-night operations" so families receive "adequate counseling" regarding gender-affirming care. Hundreds of opponents testified against Ohio's multifaceted measure when it was moving through the Legislature, including medical and mental health providers, education professionals, faith leaders, parents of transgender children, and transgender individuals themselves. They decried the legislation as cruel, life threatening to transgender youth, and based on fearmongering rather than science. The measure, which passed the Legislature earlier this month with only Republican support, would have prohibited Ohio minors from taking puberty blockers and undergoing other hormone therapies or receiving gender reassignment surgery that would further align them with their gender identity.

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It would, however, have allowed any minor who's an Ohio resident to continue treatment they're receiving. The bill also would have required public K-12 schools and universities to designate separate teams for male and female sexes, and banned transgender girls and women from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. Supporters argued that banning transgender athletes from girls and women's sports maintains the integrity of those sports and ensures fairness. DeWine's veto departs from a nationwide trend toward passing such laws. Since 2021, more than 20 states have enacted laws restricting or banning such treatments, despite them having been available in the US for more than a decade and being long endorsed by major medical associations. At least 20 states have passed bans on transgender athletes playing on K-12 and collegiate sports teams statewide.

(More Ohio stories.)

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