Ohio’s Republican governor vetoes ban on transgender health care for minors

Updated December 29, 2023, 12:44 PM EST

Top line

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed a bill banning care for gender-affirming children, becoming only the second Republican governor to reject a ban on transgender health care.

Key facts

The Ohio Legislature passed HB 68 on December 18, a sweeping bill banning all gender-affirming minors and requiring elementary schools, public colleges and private universities to ban transgender students from participating in single-sex sports teams.

DeWine said he “cannot sign this bill as it is currently written” and ordered lawmakers to introduce new rules that limit only the more controversial aspects of transgender health care.

“Ohio would say that the state or the government knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most — the parents,” DeWine said at a press conference announcing the decision you are

Before making the decision, the governor said he “reached out to people on all sides of the issue to hear their concerns,” including doctors who provide gender-affirming care and families of transgender youth.

Key background

In the week after HB 68 passed, Gov. DeWine visited children’s hospitals in Akron, Cincinnati and Columbus to speak with patients receiving transgender health care, as well as their families and doctors at the facilities, the Associated Press reported. He has also spoken with doctors who oppose transgender health care for minors and “detransgender” patients who received care when they were minors, DeWine said Friday. “I agree that action is needed on a number of issues that you have raised,” DeWine said. The governor has come out in support of banning gender-affirming surgeries for children under 18 and also said he will order state agencies to collect comprehensive data on the effectiveness of transgender health care for both minors and adults. He also voiced support for a ban on “pop-up” clinics, which he says sell patients on “inadequate or even ideological treatment,” often before they receive mental health counseling. “All of those who had a positive experience noted that they received significant counseling, therapy and counseling as a family before they even discussed the possibility of other treatments,” DeWine said. “Conversely, those who had a negative experience said they did not receive adequate counseling.” DeWine said she hopes both sides of the issue will “cooperate, find common ground and adopt rules to protect children in Ohio.”

Tangent

A large section of HB 68 was devoted to a blanket ban on transgender participation on sports teams. However, DeWine said he didn’t even begin to consider the track and field ban before deciding on his veto. “I focused on the part of the bill that I thought affected the most people and the most children, and I didn’t even get to the other issue,” DeWine said. Several other Republican governors have also vetoed similar bans on transgender athletes. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a ban on transgender athletes, but the state legislature overrode the veto in May 2022. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed a similar ban on high school athletics in 2022 — noting that to at the time of the bill’s passage, only four transgender students competed in high school sports, and only one of those students competed in women’s sports.

Contra

Before DeWine announced his veto on Friday, Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted expressed his support for HB 68. “I support it for two main reasons: Men should not compete in women’s sports. Permanent medical decisions about gender should not be made when you are a child,” Hustedt wrote in a post to X. Husted, a former Ohio senator, secretary of state and speaker of the House, formed an early committee to run for governor in 2026 after DeWine was barred from running for re-election due to term limits. Ohio hasn’t had a Democratic governor since former Gov. Ted Strickland lost his 2011 re-election bid.

More information

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