Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Vetoes SAFE Act, Girls’ Sports Protections
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) vetoed HB 68 at a Friday press conference, just before the end of his 10-day window to do so. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins responded that he was “disappointed in Gov. Mike DeWine for buying into the false narrative of those who are preying upon the sexual confusion of children.”
“Were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most: the parents,” said DeWine.
“Governor DeWine’s veto of the Ohio SAFE Act leaves kids open to the institutionalized child abuse called ‘gender affirming care,’ that is, giving experimental and harmful hormones and surgery,” Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow Walt Heyer told The Washington Stand. “Hormone therapy for children devalues them as young girls and boys as God designed them to be. Any of the surgical procedures applied for identity distress will only dehumanize them when they reach adulthood, sadly.” Heyer detransitioned 30 years ago and has personally experienced the devastating consequences of gender transition procedures.
“Minors cannot drive cars, purchase cigarettes, or consume alcohol legally. Parents cannot take newborn infants home from the hospital without a car seat or allow children to ride in an automobile without a seatbelt,” Perkins said in a statement. “Yet, in the absence of this legislation, there is a green light to alter, and even do irreversible harm, to children’s bodies. This is medical experimentation on minors, pure and simple.”
“Mike DeWine has failed Ohio, and it’s our children who are going to pay the price,” agreed Aaron Baer, president of the Ohio-based Center for Christian Virtue. “The only people celebrating this veto today are progressive activists who recklessly proclaim children can be ‘born in the wrong bodies’ and the children’s hospitals that are profiting off the sterilization and manipulation of children and parents.”
HB 68 would protect minors from gender transition hormones and surgeries and would protect girls’ sports from intrusion by male athletes. Both chambers of the Ohio legislature passed HB 68 on December 13 with supermajorities, and the governor’s office received it on December 18, giving him 10 days to sign or veto the bill.
DeWine told reporters on December 15 that he was “taking a hard, hard look at” the bill. In the interim, DeWine visited Ohio children’s hospitals that administer gender transition procedures and met with families of children who identify as transgender, as well as with detransitioners.
DeWine spoke with families of trans-identifying minors who “told me their child is alive only because they received care,” he said. “Families are basing their decisions on the best medical advice they can get.” He insisted, “Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life.”
“It is abundantly clear that the Governor’s heart was moved by those who spoke to him concerning the loss of life through suicide,” said bill sponsor Rep. Gary Click (R). “However, multiple conversations with professionals and families who felt manipulated by similar rhetoric brought a more in-depth understanding of the time-tested best practices in suicide prevention.”
Earlier this year, a left-wing whistleblower revealed that staff at transgender centers pressure reluctant parents to consent to gender transition procedures for their children, by telling them that, otherwise, their children will commit suicide. “A common tactic was for doctors to tell the parent of a [girl], ‘You can either have a living son or a dead daughter.’ The clinicians would tell parents of a [boy], ‘You can either have a living daughter or dead son,’” testified Jamie Reed, an LGBT-activist who worked four years at the Washington University Transgender Center at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“It is entirely inappropriate and unethical for anyone in my profession to plant the idea that an inevitable outcome will be suicide (even in the absence of expressed suicidal ideation) if the clinician’s counsel for gender-affirming care is not followed,” Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council, testified before the Nebraska Senate. “This is blatantly manipulative and has no part in promoting psychological or relational health.”
DeWine argued the urgent need was for better counseling, not a complete halt to these procedures. Many detransitioners “reported that they did not receive adequate counseling,” he said, but those who reported positive experiences had “received significant counseling, therapy, and consultation as a family.”
In October, Finnish doctor R. Kaltiala, a pioneer of “gender-affirming care” who treated over 500 minors with gender dysphoria over a 12-year period, published an article calling the practice “dangerous” based on its long-term effects. “It is devastating to speak to patients who say they were naive and misguided about what transition would mean for them, and who now feel it was a terrible mistake. Mainly these patients tell me they were so convinced they needed to transition that they concealed information or lied in the assessment process,” Kaltiala explained.
DeWine pledged to create administrative rules that would “prevent pop-up clinics and fly-by-night operations,” as well as obtain “comprehensive data” on gender transition procedures. He argued such rules would “address a number of goals in House Bill 68” while having “a better chance of surviving judicial review and being adopted.”
Ohio belongs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has already upheld laws protecting minors from gender transition procedures in Tennessee and Kentucky.
“The rulemaking effort asking for numbers might be a first. If he actually does that it would be huge,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Education Studies, told TWS. “But I’d rather he sign this bill AND ask for reporting requirements.”
“He’s not going to win hearts on the Left by making demands of adult transition programs, which are rarely discussed as problematic or needing oversight,” Kilgannon added. “Medical providers of a procedure that claims to do the impossible are not going to want to answer questions about that impossible, unnecessary, and unhealthy procedure, whether for adults or children.”
DeWine said the women’s sports issue did not enter into his veto decision because the gender transition issue affects more people.
“The sports issue affects many, many more people than the medical because of the girls who are forced to play against and share locker rooms with boys claiming to be girls,” responded Kilgannon. “DeWine’s dismissal of the sports issue as insignificant is dangerously insulting to women and girls in Ohio. That he treated privacy and safety for women and girls as an afterthought proves how flawed his ‘careful’ analysis was.”
DeWine’s decision placed him at odds with many Ohio Republicans, including both the lieutenant governor and the attorney general. It sailed through both chambers, passing 24-8 in the Senate and 62-27 in the House, with only three Republicans in total voting against it.
“I’ve been asked my opinion on HB 68,” tweeted Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted (R) before DeWine’s press conference. “I support it for two main reasons: Men should not compete in women’s sports. Permanent medical decisions concerning gender should not be made when you are a child. I hope the SAFE Act will become law in Ohio.”
Several hours later, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) called the governor’s veto “a mistake” and defended the bill, “HB 68 is about virtually all girls and women, who should be able to compete in fair, safe competition — not about the tiny sliver of transgender athletes. The remainder of the bill is not about medical decisions, but about the permanency and timing of those decisions.” He added, “Kids should be kids and are not ready to make forever decisions — a minor cannot even enter into a legally binding contract in Ohio. Isn’t a non-reversible surgery or medical treatment more important?”
“Family Research Council urges Ohio legislators to override Governor DeWine’s veto and pass the SAFE Act into law to protect vulnerable children from experimental procedures that cause physiological trauma for those dealing with gender dysphoria,” Perkins declared. “There is no ‘right’ to inflict dangerous, and often irreversible, procedures on minors, and it is fully within the legitimate power of each state to regulate such practices.”
“HB 68 was passed with supermajorities, meaning the General Assembly could right this wrong and override the Governor’s veto. I urge [Ohio Senate] President [Matt] Huffman and [Ohio House] Speaker [Jason] Stephens to act swiftly to protect our kids and right this wrong before more children are hurt,” agreed Baer. “If the General Assembly does not override his veto, when we look back a generation from now at the thousands of kids who have been sterilized and harmed by dangerous and experimental transgender medical procedures, we will realize that those in power did nothing to stop it.”
In Ohio, a successful veto override requires a three-fifths majority in both the House (60 votes) and the Senate (20 votes).
Thus far in 2023, Democratic governors have vetoed SAFE Act-style bills in Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The legislatures in the first three states subsequently overrode the vetoes. DeWine is the first Republican governor to veto a bill to protect minors from gender transition procedures since then-Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in 2021, a veto which the legislature also overrode. Since Arkansas first enacted the SAFE Act in 2021, 22 states have passed legislation protecting minors from the harmful effects of gender transition procedures.
“Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of the SAFE Act will have devastating consequences for Ohio's children, unless the legislature moves to override,” said Perkins.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.