COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A bill that would have prevented transgender girls from participating in school sports did not pass out of the General Assembly early Thursday, a culmination of a long day of activity for House Bill 151.
The Ohio House voted against passing the amended House Bill 151, which would have banned transgender girls from participating in female sports, overhaul the Department of Education and prohibit discrimination against students who are not vaccinated for COVID-19.
While the bill was originally intended to only make changes to the Ohio Teacher Residency Program, Republican Rep. Jena Powell introduced the amendment to the bill to ban transgender athletes from women’s sports. Then, Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday folded in Senate Bill 178 to strip the State Board of Education of most of its powers and redirect control over the implementation of education policy to the governor’s office.
The bill now goes to conference committee and NBC4’s Natalie Fahmy reported that Senate President Matt Huffman said Senate Bill 178 will likely be re-introduced next General Assembly.
Late Wednesday night, 151 passed in the Ohio Senate along party lines 23 to 7 in support of the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which sent the legislation back to the Ohio House of Representatives for an additional vote.
The act requires schools and universities to “designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.” While it does allow for co-ed teams for co-ed sports, the bill bans anyone “of the male sex” to participate in any women’s sport in schools or interscholastic sports.
Gov. Mike DeWine previously spoke out against the amendment and said he believes legislators do not need to address the matter.
“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 previously.
A provision requiring students to undergo “internal and external” exams to verify their sex was removed from the legislation earlier this month. A replacement provision requiring athletes whose “sex is disputed” to present a copy of their original birth certificate was introduced, then removed on Wednesday.
A previous version passed by the Ohio House included a line that required a transgender person, or participant whose “sex is disputed,” to prove their sex with a signed physician’s statement including information about their “internal and external reproductive anatomy,” their testosterone levels, and an analysis of their genetic makeup.
Since the 2015-16 school year, there have been 15 transgender student-athletes in Ohio: Seven transgender females in high school sports and eight transgender females at the 7/8 grade level, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“All these girls ask for is a fair shot, and to be given the chance to play and win by the rules in the sports that they love,” Powell said. “The opportunity is being ripped from them by biological males.”
However, the OHSAA said in a statement it does not support the amendment addressing the transgender ban.
“The OHSAA believes that our current transgender policy is effective in protecting the integrity of girls’ sports while also providing participation opportunities for the highly vulnerable group of transgender students,” the statement read.
This is not the first time Powell added a policy banning transgender athletes from women’s sports in existing legislation. Senate Bill 187, which focused on letting athletes sign endorsement deals for their name, image, and likeness, saw a similar amendment to ban transgender athletes added by Powell in the House after the original bill passed the Senate. The bill died when it went back to senators for a concurrence vote. A standalone bill the previous year failed as well.