From anti-trans bills to attacks on education, gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers push more extremist laws

November 21, 2023 4:30 am

State Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Even after the year we’ve had with corrupt state politicians trying to con us out of our most fundamental rights, they continue their devious streak. I know you’re exhausted with Ohio politics under gerrymandered authoritarians, but knowledge is power so pay attention. The same scoundrels who blew $18 million in taxpayer money to wrest majority rule from voters and played dirty and deceptive to crush majority will on abortion rights plan to pass a slew of baseless school bills on the sly.

While you gratefully moved on from both Issue 1s, Statehouse Republicans quietly teed up legislation for passage that nobody on Main Street, Ohio gives a hoot about or broadly supports. These end-of-year GOP school specials serve absolutely no public interest or need. They are nothing more than craven bait to keep the culture war crazy trained on schools. A political means to right-wing power. 

Ohio House Bill 68 is MAGA red meat. It’s a politically expedient cudgel for anti-trans warriors to wield mercilessly against trans kids and athletes. The cruelty-is-the-point bill — which criminalizes transgender medical treatment for minors and bans trans athletes from participating in girls’ sports — cleared the House and had its first hearing in the Ohio Senate last week.

Extremist sponsor: Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery. Groundless pretext? “I do believe it is child abuse,” said Click, a Fremont pastor, about gender-affirming health care endorsed as vital therapy for gender dysphoria by most major medical institutions in the country. 

Click’s crusade to let government overrule parental rights to determine what’s best for trans minors is no anomaly in this legislature. His bill is just one of several anti-trans measures queued up to become law. Like other Republican statehouses around the country, where hateful attacks on vulnerable trans adolescents have become the prevailing ethos, Ohio lawmakers have piled on with ugly to score MAGA points.

Ohio House Bill 8, passed and sent to the Senate, would force all teachers and staff to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents and includes shades of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” nonsense in a vaguely defined “sexuality content” excuse to censor discussion of “sexual orientation or gender ideology.” More red meat to foment unwarranted division and distrust in an already strained education system. 

Extremist sponsors: Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton). Groundless pretext? “This legislation would give the parent the ability to read over material and, if it is their decision, to remove their kids from that class and go to another,” said Swearingen about what has long been public school policy governing parental notice, review opting out of instruction.

Ohio House Bill 183 is the ridiculous “bathroom bill” that would ban transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that don’t correspond to the gender assigned at birth. This bizarre obsession over regulating the bathroom use of trans youth is part of the wider GOP campaign to provoke fear and loathing of an easy target. HB 183 has had three hearings and, despite strong public opposition, could be voted out of committee soon, passed by the full House, and fast-tracked in the Senate. 

Extremist sponsors: Rep. Beth Lear, R-Galena and Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond. Groundless pretext? “You could have adult males going into a bathroom that was intended for elementary girls,” said Lear about a scary fantasy meant to fuel anti-transgender panic without basis in truth or reality. 

Ohio House Bill 214, which sailed through the House and to the Senate Wednesday, is another hollow shell of a bill for the culture war universe that purportedly aims keep politics out of the classroom per a code of conduct that is like current policy followed by public school educators as established norm. Nevertheless, the measure mandates that school districts adopt policies to ban any required adherence to particular political or ideological beliefs by faculty or students as remedy to a phantom problem.

Extremist sponsor: Rep. Adam Holmes, R-Nashport. Groundless pretext? “Unfortunately, Ohio’s recent political climate (?) has raised concerns that Ohio’s K-12 public school teachers, staff and students may face negative consequences for expressing certain political perspectives or failing to conform to specific ideological viewpoints,” said Holmes about his invented concerns to stoke trumped-up suspicions and chill speech.

Finally, Ohio Senate Bill 83, passed in May and undergoing multiple makeovers in the House, is a hot mess of a measure built to fit a bogus narrative of left-leaning, conservative-hating colleges. The hugely contested higher education bill would ban public colleges and universities from implementing terrible things like diversity, equity and inclusion programs, remove job protections for tenured faculty and staff, require all students take a civics course and impose other government restrictions to contain the liberal contagion presumably infecting Ohio campuses.    

Extremist sponsor: State Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland. Groundless pretext? “Conservatives are political minorities on woke campuses…treated unequally…just like racial discrimination” where a “uniformly leftist agenda on campus…replaces education with politically correct indoctrination,” said Cirino about the manufactured Fox “News” grievances he hopes to rectify by radical dictate.  

The good news is after the year we’ve had with gerrymandered authoritarians in Columbus, Ohioans are fighting mad with the minority rule being jammed down their throats by corrupt scoundrels. They’re pushing back. Hallelujah. Be thankful of that this week. And keep the faith, Ohio. 



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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.