COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill that would ban transgender girls from competing in women's and girls sports is headed to the Ohio House floor after it passed out of the Higher Education Committee earlier this month.
It’s a familiar debate in Ohio and across the country. Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) has said House Bill 6 — named the "Save Women's Sports Act" — is designed to protect women's sports.
"All that girls are asking for is a fair shot; that opportunity is being ripped away from them by biological males," Powell told lawmakers after introducing the bill in a March 8 committee hearing. "There is a biological difference between males and females. That's why we have women's sports."
According to the language of the bill, "No school, interscholastic conference, or organization that regulates interscholastic athletics shall knowingly permit individuals of the male sex to participate on athletic teams or in athletic competitions designated only for participants of the female sex." But opponents argue the legislation will hurt transgender students, a group already struggling to fit in.
"Have you considered how difficult this will be for kids who are already vulnerable to bullying and teasing and misunderstanding by others in their communities?" Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Plain Township) asked.
Other Democrats on the committee pointed to the Ohio High School Athletic Association's current policies on transgender athletes, which state transgender athletes wishing to participate in girls sports must either
- Complete a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition
- Demonstrate to the Executive Director's Office by way of sound medical evidence that she does not possess "physical (bone structure, muscle mass, testosterone, hormonal, etc.) or physiological advantages" over genetic females of the same age group.
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) said he hadn't received a single complaint from the people in his district about the current OHSAA policies.
"With this successful policy, why are we inserting big government into parental and children’s decisions?" Weinstein said. "I don't like the hand of big government getting in my way as a parent or in my children's way of exercising their God-given freedom in this country."
Powell, the bill's sponsor, pushed back on that argument, describing the current guidelines as "discriminatory policies toward women."
"We are going to make this clear and concise for Ohioans," she declared. "We are going to ensure that women have the ability to compete on a level playing field.”
Ranking committee member Rep. Joe Miller (D-Amherst) acknowledged this is a challenging bill to discuss, with some arguing it is a war on girls and others describing it as a war on transgender girls.
"I believe that [girls] will get scholarships and they will go off and live their dreams even if there's someone competing with a slightly better advantage," Miller explained. "Just ask anyone that went up against LeBron James."
According to the Movement Advancement Project, 21 states have similar bans on trans athletes already in place, including three neighboring states. The Higher Education Committee narrowly voted 8-6 to push the bill through to the full House earlier this month.