Equality Ohio Condemns Sudden Passage of Bill Amendment Prohibiting Transgender Youth from Playing Sports

Moments ago, Rep. Jena Powell inserted an amendment that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in school sports into HB 151—repeating what she did last year at this time. By allowing this amendment at the last possible moment, House Leadership thwarted the democratic process and denied Ohioans the opportunity to provide input. It’s a coward’s tactic that illustrates that even the sponsors know this isn’t what Ohio voters want.

This is appalling. On this first day of Pride month, rather than celebrate our state’s diversity, legislators are working to undermine it on multiple fronts. Extremist Ohio lawmakers have chosen once again to bypass the democratic process and sneak language banning transgender youth from playing sports into an unrelated bill on the house floor at the last possible moment. 

“The health and safety of our youth are not negotiable. This should not be a partisan issue, and we are appalled that our lawmakers are once again causing real harm to LGBTQ+ youth to score political points,” said Alana Jochum, Executive Director of Equality Ohio. “All Ohio youth deserve the opportunity to play on a sports team with their peers without having to hide who they are.” 

This is yet another example of a bill designed to take authority away from experts and usurp it with lawmakers’ own political agendas. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has had a policy in place since 2015 that sets fact-based standards for Ohioans regarding Transgender incusion in school sports. To date, in the policy’s 10 year history, there have been fewer than 20 transgender girls approved to play high school girls sports. Today’s amendment targets a handful of Ohio students and their families who simply want to play sports like everyone else. Similar legislation has been vetoed by conservative governors across the country, citing these bills as extreme attacks on a vulnerable population of youth and the negative impact on their mental health.

Transgender youth are already at higher risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide as well as increased difficulties and discrimination in school. Especially in a state lacking basic statewide nondiscrimination protections, our youth deserve affirming, safe environments to grow, play, and learn. Today’s actions take Ohio further away from protecting an inclusive learning environment. No one should be excluded from the sport they love.

The vast majority of Ohioans do not support this move. They know #OhioCanPlay. We’ve been collecting real stories from Ohioans from around the state who have voiced the importance of inclusive youth sports. Hear from transgender athletes and Ohioans who support our transgender youth here and add your voice to the growing chorus of affirming Ohioans.

This anti-democratic move comes after a long two days of watching the House push forward other anti-LGBTQ+ bills, with sponsor testimony for HB 616—which bans speech on race and gender in schools—on Tuesday, and a string of hearings on HB 454, which would ban gender affirming care for transgender youth. 

Equality Ohio has no intention of backing down. We will work to stop this harmful legislation as it heads to the Senate. We call upon our elected leaders to work to support LGBTQ+ Ohioans rather than further marginalize in the very month designated to support LGBTQ+ Ohioans.

Equality Ohio is a statewide organization advancing the rights and protecting the well-being of LGBTQ+ Ohioans. Equality Ohio identifies and transforms systems and institutions so LGBTQ+ Ohioans can fully access legal and lived equality in pursuit of an Ohio where people are welcome, affirmed and flourishing. Learn more: www.equalityohio.org.