COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A ban on transgender student-athletes playing on girls and women's sports teams in Ohio cleared a House education panel along partisan lines Wednesday, the latest attempt at such a measure first introduced by Republican lawmakers in 2021.
The proposal would require K-12 schools as well as universities to designate “separate teams” for male and female sexes, but explicitly bans transgender girls from participating in girls' sports while leaving the door open for transgender athletes to play on male or co-ed teams.
At least 20 other states have imposed similar bans at the K-12 or collegiate level. The Ohio bill nearly made it through both the House and Senate last fall, but died after being tacked onto an education overhaul bill that had mixed reviews among GOP legislators.
Supporters say the proposal is about fairness in competition and maintaining the “integrity of women’s sports,” although Republican lawmakers and those who have testified in favor of the proposal have not been able to offer specific instances where transgender participation has been an issue in Ohio.
Opponents — including teachers, physicians, faith leaders and transgender athletes themselves — say the bill is cruel to children who just want to play sports and build friendships with teammates that align with their gender identity.
They also point out that the Ohio High School Athletic Association already has policies in place for transgender athletes, which advocates say are strict enough. Those include requiring transgender girls to have completed at least one year of hormone therapy and to demonstrate that they do not “possess physical or physiological advances over genetic females.”
No complaints against transgender athlete participation in sports have been brought to OHSAA since it first implemented its transgender athlete policies in 2018, according to OHSAA spokesperson Tim Stried.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine previously questioned the need for such a ban, also pointing to OHSAA as an already existing authority that can make the best decisions for their athletes without help from the Legislature.
Lawmakers seeking to pass the measure could also face pushback from the Biden administration under a recent federal proposal that could prohibit these outright bans from being enforced at federally funded schools, although the timeline on that proposal is not clear.
The full Ohio House could vote on the measure as soon as next week.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.