In a move that aligns him with other Republican governors who have opposed anti-transgender legislation, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed a bill that sought to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This remarkable action echoes the vetoes by Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah, standing as a beacon of hope in an increasingly polarized political climate.
DeWine’s decision to veto the bill, known as House Bill 68, represents a significant pushback against a wave of anti-transgender legislation sweeping through Republican-controlled states. Sponsored by Rep. Gary Click, a right-wing pastor, and advocate of conversion therapy, this bill proposed a ban on gender-affirming care and participation of transgender individuals in a wide range of sports. The bill’s defeat, for now, prevents Ohio from joining the 21 other states with similar prohibitive laws.
The governor’s reasoning for the veto centered on the stories of parents and transgender youth themselves. “Parents have looked me in the eye and told me that but for this treatment, their child would be dead,” DeWine said, highlighting the life-saving importance of gender-affirming care. He emphasized that these heart-wrenching decisions should be made by parents and medical professionals, not by the state.
The opposition to the bill within Ohio was significant and diverse. Over 525 testimonies were submitted against the bill, coming from medical professionals, parents of transgender youth, business leaders, therapists, and local activists. Even detransitioners, often used as a tool in the right-wing narrative against transgender people, spoke out against the bill. Their voices added weight to the argument that gender-affirming care is crucial and beneficial.
Conservative supporters of the bill, however, pushed their narrative that being transgender is akin to an addiction and requires treatment. The Alliance Defending Freedom, known for its advocacy against LGBTQ+ rights, also supported the bill.
DeWine’s veto is not just a symbolic act; it is a lifeline for transgender youth in Ohio. It gives them continued access to essential medical care and buys time for families and advocates to exert pressure on Republican legislators. This move by DeWine, a governor with significant sway within Ohio’s GOP, could signal a need for a reevaluation of the bill among its Republican sponsors.
The need for gender-affirming care is backed by substantial evidence. Studies have shown dramatic decreases in suicidality among transgender youth who receive such care. Recent findings in the Journal of Adolescent Health also reported significant reductions in depression and anxiety with puberty blockers. The benefits of gender-affirming care are well-documented, with over 50 journal articles compiled by Cornell University attesting to its positive impact.
Despite the veto, DeWine did announce his intention to use administrative processes to restrict surgeries and gather data on transgender care, indicating a potential increase in scrutiny for transgender adults in Ohio. The specifics of these measures are yet to be detailed.
For now, House Bill 68 returns to the legislature, offering a crucial window of opportunity for advocates and families to rally for the rights and well-being of transgender youth. This moment presents a crossroads for Ohio Republicans: uphold the welfare of Ohio families and adhere to medical best practices, or cave to conservative influencers pushing harmful policies for political clout. The decision they make will have profound implications for the health and happiness of transgender youth in Ohio.