A bill that would ban trans athletes from participating in women’s college sports and youth track and field was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday.
State Representative Jena Powell House Bill 6 came before the House Higher Education Committee, where Powell testified, emphasizing the biological differences between men and women and denouncing the “biological male” that ends with a gold medal or a championship in women’s sports.
“I am passionate about this issue because we cannot allow girls’ dreams of becoming gold medal athletes to be crushed by biological males who steal their opportunities,” Powell told the committee.
The bill calls for separate single-sex sports teams and allows athletes to file a civil lawsuit “if a member is deprived of the opportunity to play a sport or is harmed as a result of a violation of the bill’s same-sex participation requirements, or if a member is subject to retaliation for reporting such a violation,” it said. in an analysis by the Legislative Service Commission.
Democrats on the committee tried to determine the number of athletes who could be affected by the bill, which the Ohio High School Athletic Association says is small, and they pressed Powell on whether she believed in trans women.
“I’m really more concerned about trans girls in our schools right now,” said state Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville. “I worry about their mental health.”
Powell will only use the term “biological male” instead of “trans female” when talking about his bill, but insists the legislation aims to preserve a “level playing field” and preserve the integrity of the federal Title IX law.
State Rep. Joe Miller, R-Lorraine, said he hoped supporters and opponents of the “very complicated bill” would be “very intentional” about the topic. He also pushed back against ideas expressed during Wednesday’s hearing that the presence of trans athletes could derail fellow athletes’ attempts to get scholarships or achieve their dreams.
“I believe that they will receive scholarships, and they will go to live their dreams, even if there is someone competing with a slightly better advantage,” said Miller. “Ask anyone who has gone up against LeBron James.”
The bill already has more than two dozen Republican co-sponsors as it begins its journey through the GOP supermajority General Assembly.
One of those sponsors is state Rep. Derrick Merrin, R-Monclova, who caused an uproar in the House after first being elected speaker by the House GOP caucus and now being defeated in a full house by Speaker Jason Stevens, R- Kitts Hill.
Since then, Merrin has led his own caucus of the state’s GOP with his own legislative priorities.
As a member of the Higher Education Committee, Merrin supported the bill, arguing that the bill would allow students to participate in athletics among girls and women.
He also said support for the bill has been so strong across the state that if the bill is amended to allow each school district to have its own policy on it, he’s confident the measure will be implemented as written in the bill.
A similar measure was introduced in the last GA, but failed to pass after heavy criticism and hesitation over a provision in the previous bill that allowed for genital examinations to confirm biological sex.
“It’s gone through the House several times because the House knows that women want to continue to play on a level playing field,” Powell said.
Powell said she expects to hear from groups on both sides of the issue at future committee hearings, including the OHSAA, which have already created a policy on the participation of trans athletes.
State Rep. Dave Dobas, R-Columbus, chimed in when Powell was asked to provide statistics on any denials to trans athletes in Ohio sports. Citing OHSAA data, Dobos said there have been 23 cases in the last eight years where trans students have been asked to compete in sports that match their gender identity. Two of them were refused.
This story was originally published Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.