Local Reps endorse Ohio’s newly proposed school ‘bathroom bill’

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Republican lawmakers introduced a “bathroom bill” to the Ohio House on Tuesday, attempting to legislate which bathrooms transgender students are allowed to use in Ohio schools and universities.

Endorsed by a handful of local lawmakers, House Bill 183 would ban transgender women — referred to in the bill as “a member of the male biological sex” — from using student restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, or shower rooms that have been designated for exclusive use for biological women, and vice versa.

The law also would prohibit schools from allowing students of different biological sexes to share overnight accommodations on school trips.

The proposal wouldn’t prohibit a school from offering single-occupancy facilities. It also wouldn’t apply to a child younger than 10 who is assisted by a parent, guardian or family member, or to a person providing assistance to someone with a disability.

The proposal to exclude students from the bathroom that fits their gender identity is the latest attempt for state lawmakers to pass laws on transgender youth in Ohio. It joins House Bill 6, a measure to exclude transgender girls from participating in girls’ school sports (and vice versa) and House Bill 68, a measure to deny gender-affirming medical care to transgender minors.

The bathroom bill still needs to be referred to a committee, so has not had any official testimony.

Local co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester Twp.; Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp. (Butler County); Bill Dean, R-Xenia; and Bernie Willis, R-Springfield. All were unable to be reached for comment throughout a busy day at the House on Wednesday.

West Chester Twp. Trustee Ann Becker, a high-profile Butler County Republican with a transgender son in college, spoke to the Dayton Daily News shortly after strongly testifying at the Statehouse against HB68′s restrictions on transgender medical care.

In her testimony, Becker characterized that bill as a “freedom issue” and told lawmakers on the House Public Policy committee that her family’s medical decisions regarding her son were not the state’s concern.

Becker told the Dayton Daily News that she sees the proposed bathroom bill in a similar light. She noted that, while school districts need to have rules in place regarding transgender youth, she doesn’t think a statewide law is necessary.

“We can do it at the local level,” Becker said. She also noted that the inclusion of universities would regulate legal adults, too — something she takes issue with.

“My son can join the Army, my son can vote in the next election, but he can’t decide where he goes to the bathroom,” Becker said. “That’s ridiculous, that’s extraordinarily large government overreach in my opinion, and it makes this bill a nonstarter for me.”

Becker said she’s seen a lot of sensationalism and misleading sentiments from her party regarding transgender people. Becker called transgender people the current target of “this season’s Republican political drama,” and voiced her concerns that high-profile attempts to legislate transgender people will further ostracize them.

“It gets to the point where people start to get afraid because they don’t understand and they keep hearing negative things, but in reality, all the transgender kids that I’ve met are just normal kids trying to figure out themselves,” Becker said.

Tensions surrounding school policy on transgender students came to a head in Miami County last year. In November, Bethel Local Schools was sued over the district’s policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponded to their gender identity.

The federal civil case cited that the policy caused students to “hold their urine and avoid using the restroom at school if at all possible. If the students have to use the restroom it causes them anxiety and emotional distress because of Bethel’s policies.”

Bethel Schools declined to comment on the newly introduced bathroom bill.

This story includes reporting by contributing writer Nancy Bowman.

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