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A transgender Pride flag is covered with the words “Hands Off Trans Youth.” // Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator/States Newsroom via Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio lawmaker behind bill blocking gender-affirming care believes care is "child abuse"


By Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal

A Republican state lawmaker who introduced a bill that would prevent doctors from providing gender-affirming care to trans youth said he believes that type of care is child abuse.

“(Gender-affirming care) is not best medical practice,” Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, said to the Senate Government Oversight Committee. “I do believe it is child abuse.”

Click is the sponsor of House Bill 68 which would prevent doctors from giving puberty blockers and hormone therapy to trans youth. It would also ban physicians from performing gender reassignment surgery on a minor, but many opponents have testified that no Ohio children’s hospital currently performs gender-affirming surgery on those under 18.

HB 68, also known as the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act (SAFE Act),” passed the House in June. Wednesday was the first time the bill was heard in the Senate.

“The SAFE Act portion of this bill protects the bodily integrity and mental health of children who are unable to provide informed consent by providing necessary guardrails around the medical industry,” Click said in his sponsor testimony.

Ohio State Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery. // Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal

Click also said this legislation would not ban gender blockers for precocious puberty.

He has previously denied that his bill has religious motivations, but he can be heard defending conversion therapy and suggesting that homosexuality and someone being transgender are pushed by Satan during sermon of he gave four years ago at the Fremont Baptist Church, where he is a pastor. 

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States.

Sen. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, fired off a number of questions at Click.

“Do you see that a possible outcome of this legislation, if it’s adopted, would be an increase in bullying of LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ adults, trans youth or trans adults?” Smith asked.

Click responded by saying he doesn’t believe anyone should be bullied and that people have tried to bully him online and in person.

“I don’t appreciate it,” he said.  “But I can deal with it. … I think it’s actually just the opposite. Most people who are bullied are the detransitioners.”

Smith also brought up various statistics from the Trevor Project, which previously reported that nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary young people attempted suicide in the past year. 

In response, Click said the Trevor Project is an advocacy group.

“That was a political statement that was made and self-reporting to say that. And that is designed to intimidate people like me from carrying legislation which would help protect young people,” he said.

Women’s sports

House Bill 6 — which prevents trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports — was rolled into HB 68 back in June.

Dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act”, this bill was introduced by state Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum. While she was not present at Wednesday’s committee meeting, Click read a statement from Powell.

“It is crucial in maintaining women’s rights and the integrity of women and girls sports,” the statement read. “The reason we have women’s sports divisions is because biological males will always have physical and biological advantages over girls.”

Click stressed that while this bill would prevent males from playing female sports, everyone would still be able to play on co-ed teams.

Social workers speak out

Before Wednesday’s committee meeting, a handful of social workers spoke out in opposition to HB 68 during a press conference in the Ladies’ Gallery at the Statehouse.

“These bills, while written to seem like they have the best interest of Ohio’s youth, can cause more harm than good,” said Rachel Martin, a school psychologist. “We need to support our youth rather than increase the risk.”

Social worker Jody Davis said bills like HB 68 endanger children.

“It gives other students, school administration, and other parents the signal that transphobia, discrimination, and bullying is OK by the state,” Davis said.

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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