Ohio House votes to override veto of gender bill backed by Catholic conference

(OSV News) -- The Ohio House voted Jan. 10 to override Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's recent veto of legislation that bans certain types of medical or surgical gender reassignment procedures for minors who identify as transgender and also prohibits athletes from competing on sports teams corresponding with their self-perceived gender identity opposite their biological sex.

In a Jan. 10 statement, DeWine stood by his veto.

"I continue to believe it is in the best interests of children for these medical decisions to be made by the child's parents and not by the government," he said.

Supporters of prohibitions on surgical or hormonal treatments for minors who identify as transgender say such legislation would prevent minors from making irreversible decisions as children they may later come to regret as adults. Critics of such measures argue that preventing those interventions could cause other harm to minors, such as mental health issues or an increased risk of self-harm.

Likewise, supporters of prohibitions on athletes who identify as transgender competing on teams opposite their biological sex argue it would adversely affect women's sports by allowing biological male competitors who may have an advantage over them in factors including weight and size. However, opponents argue such prohibitions are unfair to athletes who identify with a gender that is not their biological sex.

Ohio law requires a legislative supermajority, three-fifths of both the House and Senate, to override a governor's veto. Senate President Matt Huffman previously told Ohio local media the Senate is likely to follow suit Jan. 24.

In a statement, state Rep. Michael J. Skindell, a Democrat, said the legislation "will endanger the lives of transgender youth all over Ohio."

"How can we say that our duty as state legislators is to uphold freedom and equal rights, when we have endless state-sponsored bullying and targeted attacks on LGBTQIA+ youth in our state," Skindell said. "This veto override is a slap in the face to every person who called, wrote emails, and came out to testify in opposition to this hateful bill."

State Rep. Gail Pavliga, a Republican who backed the override, said in a statement, "I voted to empower parents, protect children, and maintain the integrity of women's sports in Ohio."

"By voting with my colleagues in the House to override the Governor's veto of House Bill 68, we are sending a clear message that these are fundamental priorities for us, and hope that the Senate will join us in doing so," Pavliga said.

In April, Ohio's NBC 4 reported the Ohio High School Athletic Association reported 19 biologically male youths who identify as transgender have participated in girls' sports in the past eight years, among them six high school students taking part during the 2022-23 school year. The group said about 400,000 athletes in grades 7-12 participate in its sanctioned sports each school year.

The Ohio Catholic Conference supported the passage of the bill.

In November written testimony, the Catholic organization said it "recognizes the significant distress, pain, and complications caused by gender dysphoria," but argued that "concerns about human ecology with a humility about the empirical claims regarding medical best practices for minors experiencing gender dysphoria," should restrict transitions for minors.

In guidance on health care policy and practices released in March 2023, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine opposed interventions that "involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient's body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof."

"Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body, ultimately does not help but, rather, harms the human person," the document states.

- - - Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.