Cruel and Unusual

Ohio passes anti-trans legislation in spite of the governor’s veto

Last month, it seemed uncertain whether the Ohio governor would veto an anti-trans bill that passed the Republican-dominated legislature. While he ultimately followed through (for the most part), the legislature has now voted to override his veto. The bill is now due to become law in 90 days.

HB 68, the so-called “Saving Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” now makes Ohio the 22nd state in the nation to ban minors from accessing gender-affirming care and the 24th to enact a sports ban for trans youth.

While the bill bans the extremely rare practice of performing gender-affirming surgery on minors, it carves out an exception for performing surgery on intersex infants. It also allows students and parents to sue schools if they feel they have been “deprived of an athletic opportunity.”

The bill does allow minors who were already receiving gender-affirming care to continue their treatment. However, Governor Mike DeWine recently enacted restrictions on accessing that care before the bill becomes law.

Although DeWine is a Republican, there was hope that he would hold true to the GOP’s stated ‘small government’ ethos. In 2021, he vetoed an anti-trans sports bill, saying, “This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations.”

DeWine made similar comments when vetoing HB 68 last month. “Were I to sign Substitute House Bill 68 … Ohio would be saying that the State, that the government, knows what is best medically for a child rather than the two people who love that child the most, the parents,” he said.

But before the ink was dry on DeWine’s veto, he passed an executive order requiring new Ohio Department of Health restrictions for anyone seeking gender affirming care (including adults). This includes increasing hospital costs and the number of specialists a trans person must consult, mandating a six month therapy for minors, and making patient data publicly available.

“No one is getting pop-up gender-affirming care,” Dara Adkison, board secretary for TransOhio, told NBC News. “We have months and yearslong waitlists for gender-affirming care in this state, and the concept that anyone can get it in a fly-by-night, pocketbook clinic is beyond preposterous. It’s insulting to the bureaucratic mess that those of us seeking gender-affirming care have to navigate through.”

In the wake of the bill’s passage, Adkison added that they had spoken to 68 families and 7 trans adults who are seeking emergency relocation. “Their government is forcing them to uproot their lives,” they said. “They’re selling their homes, they’re changing jobs and careers and closing out all of their savings. They’re closing their businesses, they’re leaving their medical practices. The intense amount of personal and community trauma that is being inflicted by the government right now and putting these families through who just love their f*cking kids is so cruel.” 

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