At least 22 states have a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youths. But, as of Friday, Ohio is not one of them. In a surprising move, Gov. Mike DeWine, a staunch conservative who once signed a bill allowing teachers to carry firearms in class, vetoed Ohio House Bill 68, a gnarly resolution consisting of two anti-trans acts: the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” which would prohibit transgender youths from receiving gender-affirming care and the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which bans trans girls from competing in girls and women’s sports.
“This bill would impact a very small number of Ohio’s children, but for those children who face gender dysphoria, and for their families, the consequences of this could not be more profound,” said DeWine during a press conference on Friday. “Ultimately, I believe that this is about protecting human life.”
2023 was a huge year for transphobic legislation, with the nation seeing more anti-trans bills introduced in the first three months than it had in the last six years. According to data from the Human Rights Campaign, at least 35 percent of trans youth are living in a state with a gender-affirming care ban on the books, resulting in devastating consequences for these kids and their families. As my colleague, Katie Herchenroeder, wrote earlier this year:
Each ruling, each day, and each month comes with new uncertainties for families who are considering how to care for their children. Those already receiving care—including some adults who are impacted by these laws—are thrust into limbo, and forced to decide whether to wait it out or try to leave. And if they can find a way to leave, how do they know which states will remain as havens for care? The absence of this life-affirming healthcare can be devastating for transgender youth. According to The Trevor Project, more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth, ages 13 to 24 in the US, seriously consider suicide each year, and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.
DeWine, who reportedly consulted advocates both for and against the measure for two weeks prior to the vote, is now the second Republican governor to shoot down a similar bill, following Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson in 2021, according to The Hill.
“If House Bill 68 were to become law,” said DeWine, “Ohio would be saying that the state [and] the government knows better than what is medically better for a child than the two people that love them the most: their parents.”