Republican sponsors of a bill banning transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that matches up with their gender identity faced questions Wednesday afternoon from the House Higher Education Committee.
State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, introduced House Bill 183 which would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth.
“Essentially, this bill says that only boys will be allowed in the boy’s restroom and only girls will be allowed in the girl’s restroom,” Bird said during his testimony.
Many Republicans nationwide have rejected the medical consensus on transgender issues. The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.
The Ohio bill would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.
However, it would not prohibit a school from having single-occupancy facilities and it would not apply to someone helping a person with a disability or a child younger than 10 years old being assisted by a parent, guardian, or family member.
Why the sponsors introduced the bill
Bird said he introduced this bill after school district superintendents asked him to craft legislation that addresses this issue.
“We want to protect our children,” he said. “We want to protect our children from exposure to the opposite sex while in a private place like a restroom or locker room.”
Lear talked about the biology of males and females in her testimony, again ignoring medical consensus on transgender issues from the American Medical Association and others.
“Boys cannot become girls and girls cannot become boys,” she said. “You can not change DNA.”
The bill’s sponsors brought up Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer, a few times during Wednesday’s committee hearing. Gaines has publicly spoken out against sharing the same dressing room with Lia Thomas, a national championship winning swimmer who began hormone replacement therapy in 2019.
Questions from committee members
State Rep. Munira Abdullahi, D-Columbus, asked if the bill’s sponsors can tell the difference between a transgender woman and a biological woman.
“Some people can, some people can’t,” Lear said. “The point is, it’s not safe for our kids. … This bill is about protecting all students.”
State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Lorain, said HB 183 seems like two separate bills lumped together — one about K-12 students and one about college students.
“Why not separate this out?” he asked. “As an adjunct professor at a college, I’m not going to know who these kids are and I’m not policing the bathroom.”
In response, Bird said he doesn’t see a need to separate the bill.
“It’s a problem in both areas,” he said. “I do think there are many young adults who are attending an institute of higher education that feel unsafe. … I don’t think anybody is expecting a professor to police this issue.”
State Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin, said she is concerned about all of the bill.
“I’m quite frankly worried about anyone that doesn’t fall into a neat box of what they think a girl is supposed to look like or a boy is supposed to look like,” she said.
Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students said they were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender, and 26% were stopped from using the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.
When looking specifically at transgender and nonbinary students, 42% were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to the Ohio GLSEN report.
This type of bill is part of a nationwide trend. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Iowa have laws that ban K-12 transgender students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity while Kansas and Florida have bathroom ban laws that go beyond schools.
Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.