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Council declares Cincinnati a 'safe haven' for gender-affirming healthcare

the rainbow pride flag and a blue and pink trans flag
Cecilie Johnsen

Cincinnati City Council passed a resolution Monday declaring support for healthcare professionals who provide gender-affirming care in the city, and for anyone who seeks that healthcare here.

"The reality is gender-affirming care saves lives, literally. We do know without it, there's more depression, there's more suicide," said Council Member Mark Jeffreys. "It's why the American Medical Association [and] the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommended it. How anyone could be opposed to what our medical professionals are doing, or suggesting, is beyond me."

The move is partly a response to legislation at the Ohio Statehouse, especially a bill known as the SAFE Act that bans hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for children under 18 years old, regardless of whether their parents or physicians support the treatment.

The bill passed the Ohio House. It could be considered by the Ohio Senate when lawmakers return after a summer recess.

RELATED: Federal judge blocks the country's first ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Council Member Reggie Harris, who authored the resolution, says the move is also in response to some states that have criminalized traveling to another state for gender-affirming care.

"Hopefully, these bills will not pass [in Ohio], but we know that they are in other states," Harris said. "The city will look to all of its legal processes and policies to make sure that we are not wasting taxpayer resources on prosecuting anyone traveling for gender-affirming health care.

Harris says Ohio lawmakers could pass a law that would override the city's resolution, but he feels it's still important to signal opposition.

RELATED: Local leaders mark Transgender Day of Visibility and condemn bills at the Ohio Statehouse

Cincinnati announced a plan a year ago to reimburse city workers for the cost of traveling to get gender-affirming care. The primary impetus of the change was the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The resolution encourages city administration to to adopt policies to support the city as a "safe haven" including:

  • Advocate against criminal prosecution or imposition of administrative penalties on an individual or organization for providing, seeking, receiving, or assisting another individual who is seeking or receiving gender-affirming healthcare.
  • Support and encourage access to all medically necessary healthcare that promotes an individual's physical well-being or mental health, and continue to provide its services in a nondiscriminatory manner and promote policies that protect individuals from discrimination based on gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, sexual health decisions, and all other forms of discrimination that are prohibited by local, state, or federal laws.
  • Continue to prioritize efforts to address violent crimes that are threats to residents' physical safety, which affect large numbers of city residents, over efforts that would threaten or violate the privacy, sanctity, or autonomy related to an individual's medical decisions.
  • Not prioritize assisting other jurisdictions' efforts to impose criminal punishment, civil liability, administrative penalties, or professional sanctions on an individual or organization for providing, seeking, receiving, or assisting another individual who is seeking or receiving gender-affirming healthcare in Ohio.
  • Protect the privacy of health-related and personally identifiable information in its possession as required by law.
  • Review city policies so that they promote access to and protection of gender-affirming healthcare and encourages businesses and other institutions within the city to adopt similar policies.

If the Ohio Senate passes HB 68, which bans gender-affirming healthcare for children, prosecuting violations would likely fall to county prosecutors rather than city officials. Hamilton County Prosecutor Melissa Powers did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.