‘Thank You for Your Prayers’: Ohio House Overrides DeWine’s Veto of SAFE Act
The state of Ohio has taken the first step to overturn the Republican governor’s veto of a bill that protects children from permanently harmful transgender procedures and assures privacy and fairness for female athletes. Conservatives praised the action, while Democratic opponents accused its supermajority of promoting “a political, hateful agenda” due to “money given by radical Christian groups.” One Democrat screamed, “You are literally killing our children!”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 65-27 to override Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of Substitute H.B. 68, more than the 60 votes required. The measure combines the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act — which shields children from transgender puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone injections, and surgeries — with the Save Women’s Sports Act, which prohibits men from competing in girls’ sports or sharing their locker rooms. It also prevents courts from denying or limiting custody to a parent who refuses to “affirm” their child’s transgender identity and safeguards state taxpayers from funding minors’ transgender procedures through Medicaid.
Overwhelming Republican support came as no surprise to the bill’s sponsor. “Our momentum is very good,” said State Rep. Gary Click (R-88) on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Tuesday. “My colleagues were clamoring to come back and vote on this. They’re very upset,” with some flying home from as far as Florida to protect children.
Transgender activists in the House gallery briefly screamed in protest and defeat after Wednesday’s results were announced. But Christian pro-family advocates praised the outcome.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) thanked the state house for opposing the “politicized and harmful practice of pushing minors towards irreversible drugs and surgeries in favor of compassionate mental health care that gives them time to grow into comfort with their bodies and true identities,” in the words of ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp. “No one has the right to harm children, and, thankfully, states have the power — and duty — to protect them.”
“Ohio and the entire nation have spoken. It’s not okay to chemically sterilize and mutilate children, and no clinic can transform little girls into little boys with pills and scalpels,” said David Mahan, policy director at the Columbus-based Center for Christian Virtue. “I want to thank Representatives Click and [Jena] Powell for courageously championing this legislation, and Speaker [Jason] Stephens for acting swiftly to protect our kids from the dangerous consequences of Governor DeWine’s veto.”
Leaders in the state’s right-to-life movement supported the bill, which would reduce the abortion industry’s profits. “From our earliest days, Cincinnati Right to Life has stood against Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion, anti-person agenda which tragically now includes being a top advocat[e] and provider of gender-altering harm to minors and adults. Planned Parenthood believes abortion and gender mutilation ‘go hand in hand’ while also believing a child as young as two can be questioning their gender.” Right to Life of Northeast Ohio also posted several supportive messages.
Those who oppose new child protections resorted to emotional outbursts, with one Democratic leader accused her opponents of “literally killing our children” as well as “killing our democracy” by holding a lopsided, supermajority vote.
“With this vote to override the governor’s veto today, you are literally killing our children! Take that in for a moment — literally killing our children, all to win your Republican primary race!” asserted Minority Whip Jessica Miranda (D-28), reading her statement off her phone.
“Dog whistle politics, the proverbial bogeyman who does not exist, is killing our democracy,” she claimed.
Miranda also appealed to the state’s corporations and Big Business interests to pressure the state. “Boy, I sure do hope the decision-makers over at Intel are watching this today,” she quipped. Intel announced plans to invest up to $100 billion to build two computer chip factories in Ohio.
She also took aim at the state’s Christian legislative analysis group. “I hope all the money that CCV, the so-called Center for Christian Virtue, raises off of bullying our children keeps them up every night of their low lives.”
The state lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood — which — literally applauded the remarks on social media, posting a quotation and an emoji of clapping hands.
“I don’t intend to return the accusations of hate,” responded Click. “Until a moment ago, I wanted to say no one in here hates anyone. I think most people here have good intentions. I believe our governor has good intentions. However, good intentions do not save lives or protect women — good policy does.”
Yet the accusations piled up. “H.B. 68 is a bill that will lead to an increase in deaths,” alleged Rep. Anita Somani (D-11), who testified against previous versions of this bill before running for office.
Somani accused the supermajority of backing “a political, hateful agenda” due to “money given by radical Christian groups.” Americans who oppose transgender interventions for children “don’t trust science,” said Somani, boasting, “your Google search [does not] make your knowledge equal to my 30-plus years in medicine.”
“I truly struggle to comprehend the arrogance of those who vote to override this veto,” said State Rep. Beth Liston (D-8), who boasted “as a pediatrician I have the most experience here working with transgender[-identifying] children.”
Multiple Democrats, including Somani and Liston, highlighted November’s successful referendum on Issue 1 — The amendment, which inserts a “right” to abortion-on-demand essentially until birth into the state constitution, states, “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.” Liston invoked “the 58% of Ohioans who agreed in November that health care decisions should not be the business of the government.” Somani stated that “last year the voters loudly and clearly showed us, with overwhelming percentages … they want a say in this” issue.
Although the groups behind Issue 1 openly support transgender procedures and surgeries for minors without parental notification, Democrats denied Issue 1 had anything to do with transgender issues, and Ohiolegacy media ran “fact checks” branding such concerns as false and “misinformation.” Days after the election, Ohio Democrats introduced the so-called “Reproductive Care Act” (H.B. 343), which states that “reproductive health care … means gender affirming care.”
Somani accused those who supported child protections of “pushing a political agenda that appeals to a fringe of voters.” In fact, nearly two-thirds of Ohioans oppose “allowing medical professionals to provide someone younger than 18 with medical care for a gender transition,” as well as forcing female athletes to compete against men, according to a 2022 SurveyUSA poll conducted for Cleveland’s Baldwin Wallace University.
“This legislation is nothing but hateful, state-sponsored bullying,” said Ohio House Democrats on social media.
But Rep. Josh Williams (R-41) said H.B. 68 merely applied the same legal logic that the legislature followed in 2018 when it banned female genital mutilation, a cultural practice the Biden administration described as “child abuse.” Williams said legislators opposed letting children be mutilated to affirm their cultural identity, but Democrats now support gender mutilation for “the cultural purpose of affirming a child’s gender identity … You are literally trying to sterilize children in the name of an agenda.”
Several Republican women addressed fairness in girls’ sports. “In Ohio, we don’t let men steal gold medal sports from girls,” said Rep. Jena Powell (R-80). “We have the right to a level playing field,” insisted Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-62), who referred to herself as “an aging athlete.” At least one Democrat signaled he was open to the women’s sports provisions of the bill. Rep. Cecil Thomas (D-25), who wore a pin of a transgender flag in the shape of a heart on his left lapel, also said he felt greater counseling is important, recounting a story of a boy he grew up with who was “always a little different” and later identified as a woman.
At least one Democrat attacked Click personally, a recurring motif in the Christian conservative’s legislative journey to protect Ohio’s children. “Is the sponsor of this bill who we want to follow? Is his moral authority really who [sic] we want to follow?” asked State Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-24) Click, who is also a Baptist pastor. “Is that who’s going to guide us to the future?”
The override vote “reaffirmed that we hold women and children at a premium in the state of Ohio” and that children are “entitled to grow up intact,” said Click after the vote.
The override vote now heads to the Ohio State Senate, currently scheduled to return to session at 1:30 on January 24. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) told local media the Senate — which passed the bill by a 24-8 vote, four more votes than necessary to override — has the votes to an override. If that is true, H.B. 68 will go into effect 90 days later.
“We urge the Ohio Senate to act and join over 20 other states and several European countries in fighting for truth and curtailing the deployment of harmful surgeries and drugs that are devastating countless lives,” said Sharp.
The need for a veto override disappointed Republicans across the state and children’s health advocates nationwide. Last week, Click revealed on that DeWine and he quarreled, because the governor “wanted me to allow the puberty blockers” for minors. Click says he “reluctantly” agreed to DeWine’s request for a grandfather clause for puberty blockers, exempting those who had already begun transgender procedures from the ban. “We’ve invited him to join us for two and a half years to participate in this. And it wasn’t until an hour before we actually voted on it that he wanted some concessions.”
“It’s a flawed argument. It’s an emotional argument, but it’s not an evidence-based argument,” Click told Perkins. “The reality is that suicidal ideations precede the gender dysphoria; they don’t follow it. The gender dysphoria is the result, not the cause” of depression.
DeWine signed an executive order last Friday banning all transgender surgeries on minors in the state of Ohio. “I think it’s a good way to take this issue off the table” and “talk about other things.” But critics note an executive order can be rescinded at any time; children need the stable support of the law, they said.
DeWine also announced regulations requiring counseling for adults who seek to undergo transgender procedures and for transgender facilities to keep records of all procedures and psychological assessments — a move Click supports. “I had that in an earlier version of the SAFE Act, and we had to negotiate that out, because there was so much opposition to it,” Click told Perkins earlier this week. “They don’t want to give us the data, because the data will tell the tale, and they don’t want us to know the facts.”
But he said DeWine’s regulation requiring transgender clinics to have a team of workers available to transgender-identifying people would be ineffective. “A multidisciplinary team is not sufficient,” said Click in his closing remarks Wednesday. “It’s just more people getting paid to say the same thing.”
“Why do we live in a society that says you need a scalpel and drugs to be your authentic self?” he asked. “That is hurtful. That is harmful, and that is horrible.”
He added, “Every single presidential candidate needs to know where he stands, because any presidential candidate who does not stand with us on this has no business anywhere near the White House.”
Click — who told The Washington Stand exclusively that override efforts would begin on January 10 and continue January 24 — challenged DeWine to go further to protect young people. “If he really wants to do good, what he needs to do, Tony, is he also needs to do an executive order to ban the puberty blockers,” as well as cross-sex hormone injections, Click told Perkins. “Now there’s going to be a rush on the puberty blockers, those chemically castrating drugs for minors, to get in under that grandfather clause if we’re not careful.”
That will end 90 days after the Senate override, he said. “We just need to keep the pressure up till we get it done. Calls, phone calls, emails, whatever it takes. Get a hold of your legislator and tell them you want us them to override the veto.
“Thank you for your prayers,” Click concluded.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.