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House Republicans Attach Transgender Ban to Popular College Athlete Bill

Ohio House debates controversial amendment.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio House debates controversial amendment.

The bill to allow college athletes to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness passed the Ohio House, but not before Republican lawmakers attached a last-minute amendment to the bill that bans transgender women from participating in high school and college women sports.

The transgender athlete ban was already its own bill, HB61, making its way through the House committee process. But Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) moved to add the language as an amendment to SB187 which had bipartisan support.

Supporters of the transgender athlete ban say transgender women have an unfair physiological advantage against women designated female at birth.

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) said women designated female at birth have different body mass, muscle mass, bone structure, and lung capacity.

"And yes, the big item in the room, we have menstrual cycles. Which also compromises our ability to reach maximum performance on any given day," Schmidt said on the House floor.

House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) countered saying this bill discriminates against transgender kids who already face a high rate of depression and suicidal thoughts.

"My menstrual cycle has never stopped me from doing anything. I'm still great. And it is not something that will hold me back but what does hold me back is hatred," Sykes said.

Sykes also called it “this awful, terrible, disgusting, vile, worse-than-the-sticky-stuff-on-the-bottom-of-my-shoe amendment” and noted that it comes during Pride Month.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association allows for transgender women to compete in women's sports with guidelines that say "Participation in interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics is a valuable part of the education experience for all students" and "Transgender student athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports."

To compete, transgender athletes must do one of the following:

  • "Complete a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition
  • "Demonstrate by way of sound medical evidence that she does not possess physical (which can mean bone structure, muscle mass, testosterone, hormonal), or physiological advantages over genetic females of the same age group"

Opponents of the amendment included every Democrat and a handful of Republicans.

Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) said the ban and its specific language could leave Ohio open to lawsuits.

While Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) said the amendment made Ohio a "haven for hate." Brent also took issue with the lawmakers who said a vote in favor of the transgender athlete ban was for women's rights.

"If the General Assembly wants to protect women, we need to turn our attention to equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, a wage discrimination hotline, and reproductive justice. This is the work that needs to be done to protect women in Ohio, not this discriminatory amendment," said Brent.

Debate on the amendment was raucous. As Powell rose to propose it, House Democrats called for a point of order to make a motion on the House floor. When Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) was not recognized for that point of order, several House Democrats started yelling and banging their desks with a roar that drowned out Powell's initial comments.

The House had two hearings for Powell's bill, HB61, but had yet to hold a hearing that allowed for opponent testimony.

John Fortney, Senate Republican Caucus communications director, said the chamber would not take up the amendment saying the topic deserves a full set of hearings which they plan to conduct later this year.

The Senate ended up sidestepping the House's move by taking the original language of SB187, on the topic of college athletes name/image/likeness, and putting it in a different bill.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow
Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.