December 15th, 2022
Columbus, Ohio — Late last night in the final hours of the House session, House Bill 151, the most recent vehicle for a ban on transgender girl athletes in school sports, was voted down on the House floor. HB 151 made humiliating national headlines in June, when Representative Powell added a ban on transgender girls playing sports with “proof” of gender via genital inspections into an unrelated, uncontroversial bill without notice on the House floor. In the last two weeks—in an attempt to save face but preserve the cruelty—the genital inspection language had been replaced with equally exclusionary language that created a blanket ban on transgender girls by adding a birth certificate verification process. Ultimately, a new amendment passed on the Senate floor coupled pieces of the ban with 2000+ pages of other large changes to Ohio’s education system. Thankfully, the gigantic amendment—including the anti-trans sports language—was voted down by the House in its entirety.
Alana Jochum, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, said about the victory, “I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the hundreds of community members and advocates who stood up for the rights of all transgender youth to participate in all parts of life as whole people, including sports, just like everyone else. Today is a day to celebrate that trangender Ohioans can continue to play sports with their friends and teammates. To our transgender youth: We see you, we love you, and we will always have your back.”
“TransOhio is vehemently opposed to any legislation that attempts to limit the existing rights and freedoms of trans individuals, especially when lawmakers are clearly using trans children and adolescents as pawns in political games.” said James Knapp Chair of TransOhio. “We are relieved this discriminatory bill did not advance further, but this is again a warning to stay vigilant — this is the second time in two legislative sessions that lawmakers have crammed a failing transphobic bill into an unrelated bill, trying to ram it past the legislature at the eleventh hour, while constituents are asleep.”
“The ACLU of Ohio is relieved, for every transgender and gender-nonconforming child in this state, that early this morning the Ohio House rejected HB 151,” said Sean McCann from ACLU of Ohio. “We celebrate the fact that trans athletes woke up this morning and found out they can continue to play their favorite sports. Their courage, and the courage of their families, has been so inspiring to watch. It is because of their tireless, courageous advocacy at the Statehouse and elsewhere that this hateful bill did not make it to the Governor’s desk. The ACLU of Ohio will always stand with trans and gender non-conforming youth, and we will continue to be vigilant and prepared to fight against future attacks on their right to exist as their authentic selves.”
“We are grateful that members of the Ohio legislature saw this legislation for what it is: discrimination. All children deserve to have the same positive, affirming, and formative experiences as their peers, and those who tirelessly fought against yet another extremist attack made it clear that our most vulnerable youth deserve to be seen, heard, and protected.” Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director
Dr. Rhea Debussy (she/her), who is the Director of External Affairs at Equitas Health and a former facilitator for the NCAA’s Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program said, “As a national voice in the fight for trans-inclusive athletics, I’m thrilled that HB 151—which attempted to ban transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and intersex youth from school sports—is not law. Debussy further noted, “However, it’s very alarming that a group of legislators thought bullying gender expansive and intersex youth was an urgent need for the final hours of Ohio’s 134th General Assembly.”
Kaleidoscope Youth Center Executive Director Erin Upchurch, MSSA, LISW-S spoke about the power of young people in the political process: “We are grateful that the transgender athlete ban will not become law this year. This victory for transgender athletes and all LGBTQIA+ young people in Ohio demonstrates the power of advocacy and the good that can come when people bravely tell their stories. While we hope leaders will not misuse their power and influence to single out individuals and communities based on their identities, we will continue to push back against any future legislation that would discriminate against LGBTQIA+ youth. Kaleidoscope Youth Center is committed to standing with and for our young people and continuing to be a safer place where they can be affirmed and loved in community.”
Ember, a high school athlete who plays softball in Ohio whose story led the #OhioCanPlay campaign, had this to say about last night’s win: “I’m incredibly relieved that Ohio’s transgender athlete ban did not pass last night. Transgender kids already have enough to worry about (like passing our midterms next week). I’m just happy other trans kids will have access to an experience that has been so affirming for me if that’s what they choose. To all the transgender and nonbinary kids out there, keep being the amazing people I know you are. I’m going to go take a nap now.”
Minna Zelch, Ember’s mother and a tireless advocate for transgender youth said, “Our family is relieved that fairness for all Ohio athletes won over bigotry and misinformation. Thank you to the legislators who voted on the side of transgender kids and to all the organizations and individuals who worked to defeat the trans athlete ban. Thanks to you, transgender girls in Ohio will still be able to play the sports they love. You showed everyone that trans voices matter and trans lives are worth fighting for.”
While advocates are elated that the legislation did not pass, they are careful to remind us that its mere introduction and movement through the legislative process has been deeply harmful to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly for youth. The bill was part of a larger national trend targeting the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society––Trans youth––and spreading malicious misinformation about who they are and what they deserve. Equality Ohio and our partners will continue to be vigilant in the coming months as the community looks to 2023.
About Equality Ohio
Equality Ohio is a statewide organization advancing the rights and protecting the wellbeing 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.
About Kaleidoscope Youth Center
Kaleidoscope Youth Center [KYC] is the largest and longest standing organization in Ohio to serve and support LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults; ages 12-24. Since 1994, KYC has been a leader and expert in cultivating environments of affirmation and belonging through several programs which include the drop in center; community education and training; advocacy and civic engagement; mental health and wellness; and low barrier housing opportunities. www.kycohio.org
About Trans Ohio
TransOhio serves the Ohio transgender and ally communities by providing services, education, support, and advocacy, which promotes and improves the health, safety and life experience of the Ohio transgender individual and community. TransOhio is Ohio’s first and largest statewide transgender equality organization.
About ACLU of Ohio
The ACLU of Ohio is a non-profit, non-partisan legal and advocacy organization working to expand civil liberties and civil rights for all people. It is a state affiliate of the ACLU Nationwide – founded in 1920 – with offices in all fifty states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.