COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Republican governor questioned Friday the need for a legislative ban on transgender girls competing in sports, pushing back on GOP lawmakers’ attempt to pass the controversial measure.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s comment appearing to oppose such a policy came one day after fellow Republicans in the House inserted the ban into an unrelated bill, saying such a prohibition was needed to protect girls from unfair competition.
But DeWine said there were better ways to deal with the question.
“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,” he said.
The governor’s spokesperson said it was too early to say whether DeWine would veto the ban if it came to his desk.
The OHSAA has consistently said there’s no evidence of a problem posed by transgender girls competing in sports, and the number of such participants is minor.
The proposal, titled the Save Women’s Sports Act, would require schools and higher education institutions in the state to designate “separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.”
“It is a shameful day in this body today,” Democratic state Rep. Michael Skindell said on the House floor Thursday. “This is one of the most extreme political attacks on transgender people in the nation.”
Supporters say the measures are necessary to maintain fairness and protect the integrity in women’s sports in Ohio, though lawmakers have not pointed to a single instance where this has been an issue in the state.
“Across our country, female athletes are currently losing scholarships, opportunities, medals and training opportunities,” GOP Rep. Jena Powell, a cosponsor of the bill, said on the House floor as Democrats pounded their desks in opposition.
House Republicans added the ban to a bill allowing college athletes to be compensated for use of their name, image or likeness in promotions. The legislation must go back to the Senate for approval of the transgender prohibition.
“I continue to strongly pursue legislation to ensure student athletes receive in law their rights to their own name, image, & likeness by the July 1, 2021 deadline,” GOP Sen. Niraj Antani, the sponsor of the measure to compensate college athletes for their likeness, tweeted. “I’m optimistic in my prospects & I will continue to work hard to get this done for our student athletes.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association has ruled in 48 cases of transgender students applying to compete since September 2015 and says and there have been only 11 transgender female approvals.
“Those 11 approvals have resulted in no disruption of competition regarding competitive equity and they have not caused any loss in female participation, championships or scholarship opportunities,” Tim Stried, a spokesperson for the association, said in a statement. “The OHSAA is confident that our policy, which is based on medical science, is appropriate to address transgender requests and works for the benefit of all student-athletes and member schools.”
The college athlete compensation bill would prohibit universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance.
Such compensation could involve anything from a book signing at a bookstore to a deal with a local restaurant. Exceptions include sponsorships for marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and casinos.
Athletes would have to notify universities 15 days ahead of signing endorsement contracts. The measure mirrors similar efforts in other states and on the federal level as athletes fight for rights to compensation.
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day has testified before Senate and House committees that Ohio schools need the bill passed quickly to be competitive with colleges and universities in states with similar laws.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.