Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, on Friday vetoed a bill by fellow Republicans that would have banned gender-confirming healthcare for minors in the state, and prohibited transgender athletes from taking part in girls’ and women’s sports.
The surprise move, which DeWine said was “ultimately about protecting human life”, was largely welcomed by pro-LGBTQ+ activists, although the governor indicated he still intended to enact some of the provisions of the bill through executive action.
“Were I to sign, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows what is best medically for a child rather than the two people who love that child the most, the parents,” he said.
“Many parents have told me that their child would be dead today if they had not received the treatment they received from an Ohio children’s hospital. I have also been told, by those that are now grown adults, that but for this care, they would have taken their lives when they were teenagers.”
DeWine said he believed the law was “not in the best interests of Ohioans”. Republicans have enough of a majority in the state legislature to ultimately override the veto, but it was not immediately clear whether or when they would attempt to do so.
Restrictions or outright bans on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth have passed in more than 20 Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide since 2021, the Associated Press reports, making DeWine’s resistance a break with precedent.
Many of the actions have become the subject of legal challenges, with a growing number of judges blocking laws passed by conservative states.
In Ohio, minors would have been banned from taking puberty blockers and undergoing other hormone therapies, or receiving gender-confirmation surgery to further align them with their gender identities, according to the bill that passed with only Republican support. Those already receiving care would have been allowed to continue.
Opponents branded the bill as “cruel”, with dozens of doctors and mental health professionals, parents of transgender children and transgender youths giving testimony.
Despite the veto, DeWine said he would take administrative actions that would address some provisions of the bill and “have a better chance of surviving judicial review and being adopted”.
He said he was directing state agencies to ban gender-confirmation surgery for people under age 18; that he will require “relevant agencies” to report to the legislature information about minors and adults seeking gender-confirmation healthcare; and that his administration will prevent “pop-up clinics or fly-by-night operations” to ensure families receive “adequate counseling” over gender-confirmation care.
“I adamantly agree with the general assembly that no surgery of this kind should ever be performed on those under the age of 18,” DeWine said.
Similar to passing restrictions on transgender healthcare, numerous Republican-controlled states have acted to ban transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports at school and college levels. In Florida last month, high school students protested in support of staff suspended for allowing a transgender athlete to play on a volleyball team.
The Biden administration hopes to formalize a proposal into Title IX legislation next year that would effectively nullify state bans on transgender athletes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report