Ohio judge blocks ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors—for now

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An Ohio judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an impending law that would restrict medical care for transgender minors in the Buckeye State.

The decision came weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the state on behalf of two transgender girls and their families. The measure prevents doctors from prescribing hormones, puberty blockers, or gender reassignment surgery before patients turn 18.

Attorneys contend the law violates the state Constitution, which gives Ohioans the right to choose their health care.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans and their families,” said Harper Seldin, staff attorney for the ACLU. “Ohio’s ban is an openly discriminatory breach of the rights of transgender youth and their parents alike and presents a real danger to the same young people it claims to protect.”

Protesters gather at the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24 ahead of the Ohio Senate's vote to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of House Bill 68.
Protesters gather at the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24 ahead of the Ohio Senate's vote to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of House Bill 68.

The legislation was set to take effect on April 24 after House and Senate Republicans voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto. Proponents of the bill contend it will protect children, but critics say decisions about transition care should be left to families and their medical providers.

The suit in Ohio mirrors efforts in other states to challenge laws that restrict gender-affirming care for minors. A federal judge struck down a similar policy in Arkansas, arguing it violates the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their families. The state is appealing that decision.

“We protect children with various restrictions that do not apply to adults − from signing legal contracts to buying alcohol and tobacco and more,” Attorney General Dave Yost posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the lawsuit was filed. “As I promised during the veto override, my office will defend this constitutional statute.”

What does the Ohio bill do?

The bill allows Ohioans younger than 18 who are already receiving hormones or puberty blockers to continue as long as doctors determine stopping the prescription would cause harm. Critics say that’s not enough to protect current patients because health care providers could be wary of legal consequences.

The legislation does not ban talk therapy, but it requires mental health providers to get permission from at least one parent or guardian to diagnose and treat gender dysphoria.

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The bill also bans transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams in high school and college. It doesn’t specify how schools would verify an athlete’s gender if it’s called into question. Players and their families can sue if they believe they lost an opportunity because of a transgender athlete.

The lawsuit doesn’t specifically challenge the athlete ban. But it argues the legislation flouts the constitution’s single-subject rule, which requires legislation to address only one topic. House Republicans introduced separate bills on gender-affirming care and transgender athletes before combining them into one.

In Tuesday’s decision, Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook indicated that the law could be tossed out because of a single-subject violation.

“It is not lost upon this Court that the General Assembly was unable to pass the (Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation) portion of the Act separately, and it was only upon logrolling in the Saving Women’s Sports provisions that it was able to pass,” Holbrook wrote.

Panel clears ban on gender reassignment surgery for minors

Tuesday’s decision came one day after a legislative panel cleared the way for an administrative rule that will ban gender reassignment surgery for minors. Ohio health care providers say they do not perform that procedure on patients under 18.

The rule will take effect May 3.

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The measure was among several that DeWine proposed to regulate gender-affirming care after he vetoed the legislation. In testimony for Monday’s meeting, opponents argued that the rules overstep the administration’s authority and conflict with federal law.

“The proposed administrative rule changes are based on biased definitions, ignore well-established best practices, and restrict countless patients’ access to gender-affirming care,” said Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager for Kaleidoscope Youth Center.

DeWine’s other proposals are still working their way through the rulemaking process. That includes a requirement for transgender minors to undergo at least six months of counseling before further treatment occurs. Another rule would require providers to report non-identifying data on gender dysphoria diagnoses and treatment.

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio ban on gender-affirming care for transgender kids blocked for now