Today, the Ohio House Primary & Secondary Education Committee held a sponsor testimony hearing on HB527, which seeks to ban transgender athletes from high school and college athletics. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Jane Powell and Reggie Stoltzfus, is one of the most extreme legislative attacks on transgender Ohioans that we have seen. Today, those Representatives were given an opportunity to share their anti-transgender rhetoric with the committee and the state.
This hearing does not indicate that the House has interest in passing this bill. By law, the committee is required to hold a hearing on all bills introduced before a deadline in May, so this hearing indicates that the legislative process is working as it was designed. This also means that we should expect a sponsor hearing on the many pro-LGBTQ+ bills that were introduced earlier in the session, including the House version of a bill to protect youth from the harms of conversion therapy.
In the hearing this morning, Reps. Powell and Stoltzfus repeated some of the many fearmongering talking points that we have heard for years from opponents to LGBTQ+ equality and continued their attempts at transgender erasure that have become hallmarks of their opposition to the Ohio Fairness Act. We aren’t going to repeat their ill-informed and dangerous words here because they don’t deserve yet another platform. If you would like to watch the hearing, you can find it here, with their testimony starting at 30:45.
In the hearing, Reps. Powell and Stoltzfus claimed to be standing up for women’s sports, but in reality, they were seeking to sow fear and distrust of transgender people and invalidate the experiences and existence of transgender Ohioans. In fact, when Rep. Joe Miller asked Rep. Stoltzfus a simple question about whether he believes that transgender people exist, he refused to answer.
Representatives Powell and Stoltzfus and the people and organizations who enable and support them are not seeking to improve women’s sports: They are seeking to attack transgender Ohioans at every possible turn. The mere existence of bills like this one has severe impacts on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth, who have to witness those elected to make decisions on their behalf take to the bully pulpit and attack their very existence. LGBTQ+ youth suicide rates are unspeakably high in Ohio and across our country, and a massive contributor to that is the fact that there are individuals like Rep. Powell and Rep. Stoltzfus who are seeking to use their power, not to improve the lives of their constituents, but to attack them for simply trying to live their lives.
It is this kind of ignorance and shameless attacking of the most vulnerable in our community for political gain that makes our work so important. We are standing with you to hold the line against these legislators who continue to use transgender Ohioans as political punching bags.
Although it is unlikely that this bill will be passed or brought for another hearing in this General Assembly, Equality Ohio is following HB527 very closely and will do everything in our power to both make sure it fails to pass this year and is not introduced again in the future.
We will not give up in the fight against these bills, and we hope you will join us. There are lots of ways to help, and if you want to get involved, please contact Gwen Stembridge, our Statewide Civic Engagement Director (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Dominic Detwiler, our Public Policy Strategist (email@example.com).
Together, we can create an Ohio where all people are welcome, affirmed, and flourishing and where these harmful attacks on our communities are no more.