COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — LGBTQ+ rights were contested across Ohio in 2022, manifested in several failed Statehouse bills, an adopted resolution by the state’s board of education, and a new federal law sponsored by an Ohio senator.
The discourse was a nationwide trend as anti-LGBTQ+ incidents more than tripled in 2022 and state legislatures introduced a wave of bills curbing LGBTQ+ rights. From the floors of the Senate and the House of Representatives to local classrooms, below are where and how debates on LGBTQ+ rights erupted statewide in 2022.
Anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Ohio
Ohio is among 23 states that introduced at least 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, a majority targeting education and transgender youth. Legislation that came the closest to becoming law was a bill preventing transgender girls from participating in school sports, part of House Bill 151.
“This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations, including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who can tailor policies to meet the needs of their member athletes and member institutions,” DeWine said.
In April, a version of a Florida law criticized as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill made its way to the Ohio Statehouse, aiming to prohibit schools from teaching about “divisive or inherently racist concepts” — sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade. Lawmakers held the first hearing for the bill in May and it has not moved forward since.
“The classroom is a place that seeks answers for our children without political activism,” said Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “Parents deserve and should be provided a say in what is taught to their children in schools. The intent of this bill is to provide them with the tools to be able to see what their child is being taught.”
Another was House Bill 454, banning various medical procedures like gender-affirming treatment and reconstructive surgery for transgender or non-binary minors. More than 280 opponents submitted testimony for the bill’s fifth hearing in November including Amy Schneider, a transgender woman who rose to fame during her 2021 winning streak on the game show “Jeopardy!”
“Passing this bill would be a tragic mistake,” Schneider said during the hearing. “Because, far from protecting children, this bill would put some of them in grave danger, a danger that not all of them would survive.”
One of the bill’s primary sponsors, Rep. Gary Click, announced on Nov. 29 that the legislation was postponed until next year.
Board of Education passes anti-LGBTQ+ resolution
Ohio’s Board of Education voted in support of a resolution in December after debate over four months. Board member Brendon Shea wrote the resolution after changes were proposed in June to Title IX, a federal program protecting people from discrimination based on sex. The changes include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The resolution states the proposed Title IX changes “contradict the plain language of the original law” and requires school “sports teams to be based on gender identity rather than biological sex” while granting “access to sex-separate facilities based on gender identity rather than on biological sex.”
The resolution instructs the board to call upon Ohio’s legislature to “resist federal executive branch attempts to undermine the original intent of Title IX.” It then directs the acting Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue a copy of the resolution to every Ohio public school indicating that the board opposes the proposed changes and considers the guidance “unenforceable.”
“This legislation is absolutely disgusting,” said Jennifer Adair, president of the Columbus City School Board, which passed its own resolution in opposition. “It promotes just blatant discrimination, and it is just full of hate.”
However, some parents agree with the resolution, saying sexuality and gender identity should not be a factor in schools.
“Encouraging the choice of ‘pronouns’ and encounters with opposite sex kids in bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers actually makes schools culpable for the anxiety, bullying, and possible physical abuse which school authorities are tasked to prevent,” said Susan Kleine, a retired clinical counselor from Milford.
Cities scored after conversion therapy banned
Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Dublin each achieved a perfect score of 100 by a national report grading municipalities across the nation for equality.
“We are committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters here in central Ohio, and we will continue to collaborate and engage with partners throughout the community to achieve additional progress and strengthen existing freedoms and protections,” said the office of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
Municipalities receiving a 100 are driven by leaders passing ordinances like a ban on anti-LGBTQ+ tactics known as conversion therapy, the report said. In Ohio, 11 localities have banned conversion therapy, including Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Reynoldsburg, and Toledo.
The report singled out Dublin as a success story in 2022. In the past few years, Dublin has initiated a task force to combat social injustice, adopted a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance, established two new LGBTQ+ liaison positions, and more.
“We have taken many significant steps to strengthen our outward efforts aimed at ensuring all people know they are welcome and respected in our community and that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated,” said Dublin Mayor Jane Fox.
Sen. Rob Portman sponsors the Respect for Marriage Act
A bill protecting the legitimacy of interracial and same-sex marriage was signed into law in December. The act passed with bipartisan support, co-sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who was one of 12 Republicans joining Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and the other Senate Democrats in supporting the measure. In the House, 39 Republicans joined all Democrats to pass the bill, including Ohio Republicans Mike Carey, Anthony Gonzalez, Dave Joyce, and Mike Turner.
The bill requires a state to recognize a marriage from elsewhere regardless of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of the individuals. It also revokes the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that recognized marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.”
The act comes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling on abortion. A concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to reconsider other rulings that used similar reasoning, like the right to privacy. Among those decisions was Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015.
However, the Respect for Marriage Act would not offer all the same protections in place due to Obergefell, especially in Ohio. Should the Court deem same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the bill would allow states to determine whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Ohio, along with 25 other states, has statutes and constitutional amendments in place that prohibit same-sex marriage which would be reenacted if Obergefell was overturned, according to a report from the Movement Advancement Project.
In 2004, state lawmakers added language to the Ohio Revised Code that banned same-sex marriage, affirming that “a marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman.” That same year, Ohio passed an amendment to the state’s constitution that read, “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions.”
Should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell, the Respect for Marriage Act would require Ohio only to recognize same-sex marriages from states where it is legal.