The Ohio House of Representatives has rejected a ban on transgender girls in girls' school sports, most likely killing the legislation for this year.
The House had passed a bill containing the ban in June, but Speaker of the House Bob Cupp requested changes in it when it went to the Senate, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The Senate ended up combining it with a bill to reform the Ohio Department of Education, putting the governor in charge of public schools instead of the State Board of Education. The Senate passed that Wednesday night. But early Thursday morning, the combined bill failed in the House.
"This is not the way to do education in the state of Ohio ... Passing something at 1 or 2 in the morning that no one has read, that no one has seen," Democratic Rep. Phil Robinson said, according to the Dispatch.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, had not jumped on his party's anti-trans bandwagon and had spoken out against the legislation. "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 earlier, TV station WCMH reports.
The association already has a policy of requiring trans girls to have undergone hormone therapy for a year and have their testosterone under a certain level. They have to submit this information every year. Since 2015, the association has cleared only 15 trans girls to participate in girls' school sports, a minuscule number given that there are 400,000 school athletes in the state, the Dispatch reports.
Among the provisions removed from the ban was one that would have forced girls to undergo genital exams if their gender is in question. But now the legislation won't pass at all, at least not this year, unless a House-Senate conference committee comes to an agreement by December 31 -- which is not likely, as lawmakers have much more work to do by then, the Dispatch notes.
Ember Zelch, a trans girl who plays on her high school softball team, expressed relief that the ban failed. "It's not about winning, it's not about scholarships," she told ABC News. "It's about being able to have that community and sense of belonging and being able to have a place to go after school and not think about homework, not think about life for a little while."
Her mother, Minna Zelch, said that while the bill's sponsors claimed to be supporting women's sports, that wasn't really their priority. "If you really, actually cared about girls' sports, maybe you could put your energy towards the fact that girls still don't have fair facilities," she told the Dispatch. "My daughter plays on a field at the elementary school that floods every time there is a drop of rain while the boys have two beautiful new fields." Republican lawmakers, she said, are seeking to "earn a few political points on the backs of our kids."