JANUARY 31: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine gives the State of the State Address, January 31, 2023, in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed legislation that would have prohibited transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care. His veto shoots down the controversial bill, which would also stop middle and high school trans students from participating in athletics with cisgender peers.

He announced the decision in a press conference Friday morning, the last day that he was allowed to veto it.

DeWine said he listened to the bill’s sponsor and also listened to physicians at the five children’s hospitals in Ohio. He said he listened to families of youth, some who had negative experiences and detransitioned, as well as those who said gender-affirming treatment saved their child’s life.

“They told me their child is alive only because they received care,” he said, adding that he thinks people on both sides truly believe they are trying to protect youth.

While the law would impact only a very small number of children, the consequences of the bill would be profound, DeWine said.

“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” he said. Both parents of trans kids and adults who received care told him that the care saved their lives.

“These are gut-wrenching decisions that should be made my parents and should be informed by teams of doctors who are advising them. These are parents who have watched their children suffer for years, and have real concerns their children would not survive without it… Families are basing their decisions on the best medical advice they can get.”

While he vetoed the bill, DeWine said he would pursue administrative rules to help address several concerns, including the banning of gender-affirming surgery on minors (which currently is not practiced in Ohio). He also is looking at administrative rules to collect data, and to combat clinics that might pop up to try to perform ideologically-driven care, which he said was a concern from both sides of the issue.

What happens now?

Trans youth, LGBTQ+ rights advocates and doctors are rejoicing at the decision.

However, the lawmakers against the bill have another option to take away rights for trans children: The House and the Senate can override the governor on his veto. There may be an effort to do this, but it is possible it doesn’t have enough votes, according to one Republican lawmaker who originally voted in favor of the bill.

A three-fifths vote of the members of the House and Senate is necessary to override the governor’s veto — meaning 60 representatives and 20 senators. The bill passed forward with 64 representatives originally (62 after amendments) and 24 senators. Only three Republicans have publicly been against the bill. When it was passing the House, Republican state Reps. Jamie Callender and Brett Hillyer voted against it. In the Senate, state Sen. Nathan Manning voted against it. All the GOP no votes came from Northeast Ohio lawmakers.

In a one-on-one interview with Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau just a week before his decision, DeWine explained the research he was doing into H.B. 68.

Morgan Trau: “Are you going to sign [H.B. 68]?”

Governor DeWine: “Well, this is something that I’m really thinking a lot about… So I went to children’s hospital here in Columbus; I went to the children’s hospital in Akron and children’s hospital in Cincinnati — just to see how they do it, what kind of care they give to these young people. But I’ve also talked to opponents who don’t think that kind of care is appropriate… I’ve also talked to families who have told me that care is just vitally important and save their child’s life. So I’m trying to weigh all this and trying to get as much information together.”

Morgan Trau: “You’ve always been somebody to care about children, but also parental rights. How would you reckon with signing this?”

Governor DeWine: “I really don’t want to get too deeply into this… We’ve got to get this — I have to get this right… There’s a lot of testimony in the Statehouse that you covered and I want to look at that testimony — both pro and con.”

Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.


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