Clergy members and parents of trans youth testify against controversial House Bill 6

The Higher Education Committee continued to hear opponent testimony on House Bill 6, which would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports and youth athletics.

By: - April 27, 2023 5:00 am

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A dozen people — including a handful of clergy members — testified against a bill that would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports and youth athletics Wednesday morning in front of the Higher Education Committee. 

The committee heard the remainder of opponent testimony against the bill dubbed “Save Women’s Sports Act,” after only being able to hear about a dozen people testify last week  because the committee had a hard stop time even though more than 80 people submitted opponent testimony. 

“House Bill 6 uses some of the most vulnerable children as scapegoats to increase the political power of some members of your assembly, and it masquerades as a great moral victory, but only serves to show its authors’ ignorance and emptiness,” said Rev. Alice Connor, an Episcopal pastor in the Cincinnati area.

State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, introduced House Bill 6 in February, which would require separate single-sex athletic teams and allows athletes to file a civil lawsuit “if the participant is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers harm as a result of a violation of the bill’s single-sex participation requirements or if the participant is subject to retaliation for reporting such a violation,” according to an analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

Opponents testified for about two hours during Wednesday’s meeting, but there were more than 20 people who submitted opponent testimony who weren’t able to testify due to another hard stop time by the committee. 

Definition of a man and woman

State Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia, asked two people who testified the definition of a man and woman. 

“I believe the intent of your question is to get at whether or not trans women are women and trans women are women,” said Mariah Payne, a licensed professional counselor in North Ridgeville who was testifying on behalf of the Ohio Counseling Association.

When Dean asked Jess Peacock, the pastor of Community Church of Chesterland in Geauga County, Peacock responded by saying he is not a doctor. 

“I care for people’s emotional, physical, and spiritual health and this bill would definitely affect all of those,” Peacock said. 

Dean continued to press the issue by asking if Peacock can’t define a man. 

“There is a spectrum of what it means to be a man or a woman. … If we are focusing on gender based simply on genitalia, I think that’s a very limited perspective,” Peacock said. 

Peacock then turned the question back to Dean by asking, “What is a man to you?” 

“A man is a person that has been born male,” Dean said. “He’s got the right chromosomes for a male and the right DNA for a male.” 

Clergy members speak out against HB 6

Three pastors testified against HB 6.

“I believe we must protect the most vulnerable among us,” Peacock said during his testimony. “And right now, one of the most vulnerable populations within this state and within this country is queer youth.”

State Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, asked Peacock how HB 6 is harmful to trans members of his church. 

“It is an incredibly harmful bill because what it is doing is further marginalizing an already marginalized group,” Peacock said. 

Rev. Jacqui Buschor, pastor of The Church on Oakland Park in the North Linden neighborhood of Columbus, said HB 6 makes trans youth more “isolated, targeted, and vilified.”

“As people of faith, if we take seriously our call to join God in building the kind of world God dreams for us, we must start from a place of love and acceptance for all, just as God does,” Buschor said. 

Connor shared during her testimony how her child came out as trans last year when he was 13. 

“This student and my child are lights in their communities, lights to me, lights to God — and this bill would snuff out those lights,” she said.  

“I don’t think children ogle each other’s genitals in the locker room.”

State Rep. Josh Williams, R-Oregon, asked TransOhio board secretary Dara Adkison if she believes young girls in Ohio should be exposed to male genitalia in the locker room without their consent.

“I think there’s a lot of time spent analyzing the genitals of children and I think that people who spend a lot of time focusing on children’s genitals should really think about what they are doing with their time,” Adkison said to chuckles of those in attendance. “I don’t think children ogle each other’s genitals in the locker room.”

Adkison, who is the parent of a trans child, said bills like HB 6 are geared to make trans people’s live as difficult as possible.

“It’s a lot and it sucks,” he said.

Public Policy Director of Equality Ohio Maria Bruno said during her testimony that the bill would not protect women’s sports. 

“We’re talking about taking an extremely small group of people — mostly kids— and dropping them into a situation where they are going to be miserable, by adopting a wholesale ban that will undoubtedly lead to cisgender athletes also getting bullied or subjected to invasive exams and questions for being insufficiently feminine,” she said. “This bill is simply not helpful to anyone other than the politicians pushing for it.”

There are only six transgender high school female student athletes in Ohio, and of those, only three have been approved to play in the current spring sports season, the OCJ previously reported.

Malia Lewis, a school board member for Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, said the high school in her district recently worked with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to make sure one of their transgender students could play sports.

“The OHSAA policy is working,” Lewis said. “There is no reason for House Bill 6 to impose additional draconian rules upon children in K-12 sports. This legislation is unnecessary and cruel.”

Currently, if a trans girl wants to play on a team with cis girls, she must go through hormone treatments for at least one year or show no physical or  physiological advantages, according to the OHSSA.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.



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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.