Ohio governor vetoes legislation barring trans athletes and gender-affirming care for youth

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Vivien McClain/https://governor.ohio.gov

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Dec. 29 vetoed legislation that would have outlawed gender-affirming care for youth and banned trans athletes from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity, but he nonetheless vowed to move forward with executive action to address the demands of GOP lawmakers who could still override his decision.

DeWine, a Republican, issued a lengthy written statement explaining his decision to veto the bill, describing it as an example of government overreach that interferes with the rights of parents to raise their children. His statement focused squarely on the health-related provision rather than the sports ban.

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” DeWine stated. “Many parents have told me that their child would be dead today if they had not received the treatment they received from an Ohio children’s hospital. I have also been told, by those that are now grown adults, that but for this care, they would have taken their lives when they were teenagers.”

He added: “What so many of these young people and their families have also told me is that nothing they have faced in life could ever prepare them for this extremely tough journey. Parents are making decisions about the most precious thing in their life, their child, and none of us should underestimate the gravity and the difficulty of those decisions.”

DeWine went on to say that the law, if enacted, would mean that 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.”

However, the governor indicated that the concerns could be addressed through administrative action and that he was directing his agencies to draft rules to ban what he described as “surgery of this kind” among people under the age of 18 in Ohio. He further expressed agreement with lawmakers’ concerns over pop-up clinics that he said, without citing evidence, may “try to sell patients inadequate or even ideological treatments.” He said he was directing his agencies to “establish restrictions that prevent pop-up clinics or fly-by-night operations…”

For now, though, LGBTQ advocates are breathing a sigh of relief and praising the governor for issuing the veto.

“Governor DeWine’s bold action to Veto HB 68 extends beyond Ohio,” Alana Jochum, the outgoing executive director of Equality Ohio and policy director at Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), said in a written statement. “Not only does his veto physically safeguard the care of transgender youth from surrounding states who come to Ohio for its world-class health care, it sends a message to the nation that these harmful bills must stop. When thoughtful people like Governor DeWine open their minds and hearts to listen to those impacted by these bans and the science supporting holistic care of transgender youth, they come to the same conclusion: Transgender kids deserve our love and support — including access to lifesaving care.”

Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, also commended DeWine for listening to parents, doctors, and young people.

“He has given other elected officials a powerful example of how to respond to these dangerous and harmful bills with similar courage, integrity, and deliberation,” Minter said.