COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) – The Ohio House of Representatives Jan. 10th overrode Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill protecting youth under age 18 from gender transitions and limiting women’s sports teams to biological females.
The Ohio Senate is expected to concur Jan. 24 in overriding DeWine’s veto, Senate President Matt Huffman told Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH, allowing the Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act and the Save Women’s Sports Act to take effect. Both measures were included in House Bill 68, passed in December. DeWine vetoed it Dec. 29.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) welcomed the override.
“The Ohio House of Representatives’ vote to override Gov. DeWine’s veto is a step in the right direction to protect the most vulnerable among us,” ERLC Vice President and Chief of Staff Miles Mullin told Baptist Press. “This vital legislation will protect children from life-changing medical and surgical interventions and protect the integrity of women’s and girls’ sports.”
Jeremy Westbrook, executive director and treasurer of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, also applauded the House vote.
“I am thankful that the Ohio House of Representatives voted to override the decision of Governor Mike DeWine regarding the SAFE Act,” Westbrook told Baptist Press. “We must continue to proclaim biblical gender identity and protect our young women.”
SAFE would block physicians from performing gender reassignment surgeries, prescribing cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers, and would prevent Medicaid from covering the costs of such surgeries, according to an analysis of the bill on the House of Representatives website.
The bill would require mental health professionals to screen minors for comorbidities, abuse or trauma before treating youths for gender-related conditions, and would protect parental rights to raise children in agreement with their biological sex.
“The ERLC has long maintained the position that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution, and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices,” Mullin said. “And while we affirm the rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children, those rights cannot extend to decisions that harm children’s bodies.”
The Save Women’s Sports Act requires “schools, state institutions of higher education, and private, nonprofit colleges or universities” to have separate sports teams for female and male athletes. While males are not allowed to play on female teams, the act does allow females to play on male teams, and allows for co-ed teams in line with established co-ed sports divisions.
Republicans, with supermajorities in both houses of Ohio’s General Assembly, easily met the three-fifths majority vote required to override the governor’s veto.
“I continue to believe it is in the best interests of children for these medical decisions to be made by the child’s parents and not by the government,” DeWine said in a statement responding to the Jan. 10 House vote. Anticipating the veto, DeWine issued an executive order banning gender-transition surgeries on minors, and limiting treatment for adults professing gender dysphoria.
“A week has gone by, and I still feel just as firmly as I did that day,” DeWine said at a Jan. 5 news conference announcing his executive order. “I believe the parents, not the government, should be making these crucial decisions for their children.”
Mullin lamented a cultural shift from biblical values.
“We understand that gender dysphoria is real and causes significant pain for those who experience it,” he said. “Yet, while we pray for those who are suffering, we look to the Scriptures for truth.
“God created us in His image as both male and female (Genesis 1:27). The biological distinction between males and females is part of God’s good design for human flourishing. Any policy or practice that runs contrary to that reality – especially an approach that does irreparable harm – should be opposed.”
More than 20 states have enacted measures protecting children from various gender-transition procedures and care since 2021, NBC news reported, with judges either striking down or temporarily blocking measures in six of those states.