Ohio Republicans advance bill requiring genital inspection to enforce trans sports ban

A transgender rights advocate holds a sign that reads '#TransKidsLives Matter' with pink and blue colours underneath as they outside the Ohio Statehouse during a rally against a trans sports ban bill

Ohio Republicans have advanced a bill that would require student-athletes to undergo a medical “verification” process to enforce a ban trans kids from playing sports. 

Lawmakers pushed through the anti-trans bill late Wednesday (1 June) night, the first night of Pride Month. The state House was originally set to vote on a bill to modify Ohio’s teacher residency programme when Republicans added the trans sports ban on it at the last minute, Cleveland-based ABC affiliate WEWS News 5 reported. 

The new measure would require schools, state universities and private colleges to establish “single-sex” athletic teams and sports for the “male sex” and “female sex” or have co-ed teams. 

The bill would require students whose “sex is disputed” to provide a doctor’s statement verifying their “internal and external reproductive anatomy”. This physician would also need to confirm the student’s “normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone” and perform an “analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup”. 

Under current Ohio law, a trans girl or woman must undergo a minimum of one year of hormone treatment or must demonstrate they do not have any physical or physiological advantages if they want to play girls’ sports in the state. 

There is only one trans girl in the entire state that is currently participating in high school athletics, according to Equality Ohio and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OSHAA). 

Democratic state representative Dr Beth Liston added that she was told there has “never been more than one” trans student participating on a high school girls’ team “in any given year” in the “last seven years that the OSHAA transgender policy has been in place”. 

“There are not scores of girls’ dreams being crushed, there is one child trying to play on their high school sports team,” Liston said. “This is a made-up controversy and this amendment is state-sanctioned bullying against one child.”

Liston, who is also a physician, then condemned the most “disturbing” part of the bill and lambasted lawmakers for “discussing bills focusing on children’s genitals”.

Equality Ohio said it was appalling that lawmakers were “working to undermine” the state’s LGBTQ+ community on “multiple fronts” on the first day of Pride Month by passing the trans sports ban. 

Alana Jochum, Equality Ohio’s executive director, said the “health and safety” of young people in the state are “not negotiable” and shouldn’t be up for debate in the state’s chambers. 

“This should not be a partisan issue, and we are appalled that our lawmakers are once again causing real harm to LGBTQ+ youth to score political points,” Jochum said. “All Ohio youth deserve the opportunity to play on a sports team with their peers without having to hide who they are.” 

Two people hold up signs in support of the trans community that are designed with light blue, pink and white stripes. One sign reads 'transgender children are not political pawns'. The other sign reads 'Transgender proud brave wonderful me'. Both people are standing in the crowd during a protest or rally

Equality Ohio’s Alana Jochum says lawmakers are “causing real harm to LGBTQ+ youth to score political points”. (Unsplash)

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said Ohioans deserve “better than this shortsighted, discriminatory bill that will do real harm” to trans students. 

“Transgender students have participated in sports consistent with their gender identity for decades in states around the country, and there’s no actual problem here that needs addressing: this bill is about targeting transgender youth for perceived political gain, not about strengthening women’s sports or helping Ohio’s youth,” Oakley said.

“It’s especially shameful that extremist politicians passed this legislation in the dead of night before leaving town until the fall.”

Oakley called on Republican governor Mike DeWine to “make clear that he will use his veto power” to strike down the trans sports ban if it were to reach his desk. 

The anti-trans measure now heads to the Ohio Senate, which won’t meet again until after its recess – which is in November. 

A person holds a transgender Pride flag up in the air in one hand in front of the Ohio Statehouse to protest the passing a trans sports ban

The trans sports ban bill will now move to Ohio’s Senate, which will meet again after its recess. (Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

Over a dozen states across the US have passed legislation banning trans students from participating in school athletics. 

Such bills have been signed into law in IowaSouth DakotaOklahoma, Arizona, KentuckyUtahSouth Carolina and Indiana in 2022 alone. 

In May, Tennessee extended its already existing anti-trans legislation, which was passed in 2021, to prohibit trans women from participating in women’s “intercollegiate or intramural sports” at the college level

A trans sports ban was blocked in Kansas after conservative lawmakers couldn’t rally enough votes to overturn governor Laura Kelly’s veto

LGBTQ+ rights advocates witnessed similar legislation being passed into law last year in ArkansasAlabamaFloridaMississippiMontanaTexas and West Virginia