Ohio Republican Governor defends trans candidates who are being disqualified

Stock image of a trans flag waving in the wind

Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine has defended trans political candidates who are being disqualified from running for state office.

Several transgender candidates have been stopped short in their run for state office in Ohio this month after it was found that they were in breach of a little-known law that requires them to list their former name if they have changed it in the past five years.

While the law does not apply to political candidates who might have legally changed their name due to marriage, it does apply to trans candidates who have legally changed their name as part of their transition.

Governor Mike DeWine has defended trans political candidates who are being disqualified from running for state office because they didn’t report their deadname. (Scott Olson/Getty)

The rule was news to Vanessa Joy – one of four first-time trans candidates running for a seat in Ohio’s House of Representatives – who told local press that she would have been willing to include her deadname in her campaign paperwork, but the rule had not been mentioned in the 33-page candidate guide provided by the Ohio secretary of state’s office.

In a recent meeting with the editorial board of The Plain Dealer/ cleveland.com, Governor DeWine said that changes needed to be made to ensure that transgender legislative candidates weren’t disqualified from running just because they didn’t list their deadnames.

DeWine later told HuffPost in an email from his press secretary that the law should not be changed – but it should not disqualify candidates who are unaware of it.

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News of disqualification came as a shock and a disappointment to Joy and other trans candidates in the same position.

“It’s a barrier to entry for many trans and gender-nonconforming people,” she told the news outlet,” Joy had told NBC News.

“Where I personally would have just bit the bullet and allowed my deadname to be on the petitions and likely on the ballot, for a lot of trans people, they don’t want their deadnames printed. It’s a safety concern for many.”

Joy, like her fellow trans candidates, had been hoping to win a seat in the Republican state’s house to protect other transgender Ohioans, after a number of anti-transgender and anti-drag bills were introduced by Republican lawmakers.

Ohio House of Representatives
Several trans candidates have been stopped short in their run for Ohio House of Representatives. (Getty Images)

For example, in July 2023, Republican Representatives introduced legislation that would seek to ban drag queens – or “adult cabaret performances” – from library story hours and other children’s events.

Later in the year, Reps introduced House Bill 68, banning healthcare for transgender youth and restricting transgender students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity.

It was Governor Mike DeWine who vetoed the discriminatory bill, arguing that “tough decisions” about trans healthcare for minors “should not be made by the government” but by “the people who love these kids the most, and that’s the parents.”

The Republican lawmaker made the decision to veto the bill after taking the time to speak to medical professionals and the individuals and families who would be directly impacted by the ban.

Unfortunately, Republican Reps ultimately voted to override DeWine’s veto and push the ban through to the Senate.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had vetoed the state’s anti-trans bill, but Republicans voted to override his veto earlier this month. (Justin Merriman/Getty)

It is devastating decisions like this that inspire candidates like Joy to run for a seat in in Ohio’s House of Representatives.

“I wanted to give millennials, Gen X and Gen Z the courage to get out and vote and to run for office themselves,” she had said shortly after her disqualification.

“Because if they see a trans girl from very red Ohio running for public office, in a chamber full of people who despise me for my existence, they might have more courage to get out and vote and see that ‘maybe my vote will make a difference.’”

The other transgender candidates who are running for state legislature in Ohio are Bobbie Arnold, Arienne Chidrey, and Ari Faber.

If any of these first-time candidates are elected, they will become the first openly trans lawmakers in the Republican state.