DeWine vetoes controversial bill banning trans kids from girls’ sports and some medical treatments

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed a bill that nearly all of his Republican colleagues supported but many in LGBTQ communities and child health leaders opposed. The bill DeWine turned away would have banned trans youth from participating in girls’ sports and would have limited the access of trans children under 18 to some medical treatments related to their gender identity.

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting lives. Many parents told me their child would be dead today if they did not receive this treatment,” DeWine said, describing “gut-wrenching decisions that should be made by parents” and informed by doctors and medical professionals.

Ohio governor Mike DeWine stands at a podium.
Gov. Mike DeWine announces his veto of House Bill 68. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]
“These decisions should not be made by the government,” DeWine said, but by the parents who know their kids best.

Ohio’s hospitals have stressed they don’t do gender reassignment surgeries on children. But DeWine said he wants to develop state rules to ensure that no gender transition surgery is conducted on minors in Ohio.

Ohio legislative leaders react

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said he was disappointed DeWine’s veto of the legislation.

“It is disappointing that the Governor vetoed House Bill 68, the SAFE Act and Save Women’s Sports. The bill sponsors, and The House, have dedicated nearly three years to get the bill right — to empower parents and protect children. It was passed by veto-proof majorities in each chamber. We will certainly discuss as a caucus and take the appropriate next steps,” Stephens said in a statement.

The bill passed along party lines, 62-27 in the House and 24-8 in the Senate.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is reviewing the decision but his office referred reporters to a statement put out by Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson). It read, “I’m disappointed that the governor chose not to protect girls across the State of Ohio by vetoing HB68. I certainly hope that the House and Senate will overturn his decision.”

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) called the decision to veto “a much-needed sign of support for Ohio’s LGBTQ+ children, the community overall, and a victory for parental rights.

“I appreciate that Gov. DeWine took his time to listen to the individuals most impacted by this discriminatory legislation and to understand the fact-based science on this issue. It sends a much needed message of support to Ohio’s LGBTQ+ youth that they and their families are seen and heard and deserve the fundamental freedom like everyone else to feel safe in their own communities and to maintain their rights as parents to make medical decisions that are best for their children,” Russo said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who’s running to replace the term-limited DeWine in 2026, had taken the opposite view of HB 68 on social media Thursday. Husted posted: “Men should not compete in women’s sports. Permanent medical decisions concerning gender should not be made when you are a child. I hope the SAFE Act will become law in Ohio.”

Similar laws are being challenged in court

At least 22 other states have laws that prohibit children under 18 from getting gender-affirming care. But in at least six of them, courts have halted those laws, saying they infringe on the constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Some judges also have said laws banning such care violate a parent’s right to make healthcare decisions for their children. DeWine said he thinks vetoing the bill could prevent a lengthy court battle.

Opposition far outweighed support for the bill

Organizations and people who testified for the bill were greatly outnumbered by those who testified against it. Supporters of the legislation who testified included parents of trans children, and trans people themselves who said they regretted their decisions to undergo gender reassignment treatments.

Some said they supported the bill because of their religious or theological leanings including the Catholic Conference of Ohio and Ohio Values Voters. John Stover with Ohio Values Voters said it is impossible to reassign a person’s sex. He testified a person is born with either male or female DNA and that a child’s DNA cannot be changed by way of surgery. He said children under 18 are too young to undergo gender-altering surgery.

Nick Lashutka, president and CEO of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, testified his member hospitals do not perform any surgeries on minors for gender dysphoria, and 65% of minors who are treated at the facilities are not prescribed medications either. Further, he said all gender dysphoria treatment requires parental consent and said this legislation “uses false information to strip away parental rights and impose nonscientific based restrictions on pediatric health care specialists.”

Medical doctors and hospitals, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Akron Children’s Hospital, also testified against the legislation.

More than 240 people testified against the bill, including parents and LGBTQ advocates. The Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association and the Ohio Psychological Association and other similar groups testified the legislation would be psychologically harmful to trans kids who are already at a higher risk of suicide than straight children.

What Ohio lawmakers said about House Bill 68

Conservative Republicans who dominate the Ohio House and Senate passed the bill earlier this month. Many of the GOP lawmakers said kids under 18 should not be able to undertake therapies that they could someday regret. And many openly questioned the science of gender-affirming care.

Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), the sponsor of the bill, is also a Baptist pastor. He said the legislation is necessary “because medical institutions have found it difficult if not impossible to self-regulate in areas that are so blatantly driven by politics.”

Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) said the long-term implications of some treatments being given to trans youth now could prove harmful decades down the road.

“I stand here today and say I’m not comfortable with what’s going on with the scientific evidence,” Johnson said.

But the first publicly gay senator to hold the position of Senate Minority Leader disagreed. Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said she is waiting for the day she no longer feels like the legislature is waging a war against the LGBTQ community.

“I’ve told you all before, there isn’t a closet big enough to send us all back to. We’re not going,” Antonio said.