The 134th General Assembly is less than a month old, and extreme anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers have already begun their attacks on transgender youth. Yesterday, Representatives Jena Powell and Reggie Stoltzfus reintroduced their blanket ban on transgender athletes in high school and college sports. In the face of an ongoing pandemic and calls for meaningful criminal justice reform, Reps. Powell (R-Arcanum) and Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.) wasted no time in bringing back this incredibly dangerous and discriminatory bill.
In addition to these two sponsors, 14 other Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of HB61, including:
- Thomas E. Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout)
- Gary Click (R-Vickery)
- Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester)
- Adam Holmes (R-Nashport)
- Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe)
- Don Jones (R-Freeport)
- Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville)
- Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township)
- Riordan T. McClain (R-Upper Sandusky)
- Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township)
- Craig S. Riedel (R-Defiance)
- Brian Stewart (R-Ashville)
- Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster)
- Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason)
These representatives have sent a devastating and false message to transgender young people in our state, a message that we will fight with all we have.
The sponsors erroneously claim that girls’ and women’s sports are somehow under attack by boys and men “pretending” to be women in order to gain an advantage. In reality, this bill is among the most extreme attacks on transgender young people in recent history.
This bill seeks to address a problem that simply does not exist. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and many other sports governing bodies already have policies regarding transgender athletes that ensure that their events are fair, inclusive, and supportive of robust competition.
The mere existence of bills like this one can have a devastating effect on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. LGBTQ youth suicide rates are unspeakably high in Ohio and across our country, and bills like these only add to the existing reality of risk factors in these young peoples’ lives. Every time a bill like this is introduced, calls from Ohio to LGBTQ youth suicide prevention lines spike.
The benefits of participating in athletics should be accessible to all young people. The values of teamwork, responsibility, and respect are integral lessons often taught through sports, and the cognitive, social, and emotional benefits to youth who participate in them are incalculable. Our elected leaders should be working to make sports more accessible for all youth—not attacking some of our most vulnerable youth with divisive and harmful legislation like HB61.
The organizations supporting this bill and other harmful bills like it––Center for Christian Virtue (formerly Citizens for Community Values, CCV) and Ohio Christian Alliance––have seen the incredible progress we have made on important issues like the Ohio Fairness Act and protecting youth against the harmful practice of conversion therapy. They know we are winning in our struggle for LGBTQ+ equality in Ohio, and CCV has invested heavily in trying to stop our momentum by hiring a new lobbyist.
We’ve never backed down before, and we won’t start now. We will fight the continued attacks on transgender young people from both elected officials and organizations. The more progress we are able to achieve, the louder and more extreme their attacks will become. It means we’re winning.
These battles are never fought alone. Organizations and leaders across the state have been working together to stand for LGBTQ+ youth for years. Anti-LGBTQ+ groups are pouring resources into these attacks against transgender young people, and we must fight back. That’s why we created Defenders of Qhio, our monthly giving society. When you join Defenders of Qhio, you join our fight to protect every LGBTQ+ Ohioan and pass laws that make Ohio a safer place for LGBTQ+ families.
As always, thank you for your continued support of our work. Together we can achieve our vision for an Ohio where all people are welcome, affirmed and flourishing.