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House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, strikes the gavel during the Ohio House session, Jan. 10, 2024, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. // Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal

VOICES: Ohio Republican lawmakers prove the poison of gerrymandering with anti-trans override of governor

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By David DeWitt, Ohio Capital Journal


With a vote of 65-28, unconstitutionally gerrymandered Ohio House Republican lawmakers on Wednesday voted to override Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation that bans gender-affirming care for trans youth. It goes now into the hands of the gerrymandered Senate.

Combined with Ohio Gov. DeWine’s executive orders on transgender care, the override of his veto on gender-affirming care for trans youth makes Ohio poised to become the most restrictive state in America when it comes to transgender health care for both children and adults.

The Ohio Senate must override the veto next — which is expected from the gerrymandered chamber — and then the law would take effect 90 days from there. Advocates will almost certainly announce a lawsuit against it, and this all will then play out in the courts.

It’s notable that DeWine had a chance to stand up against gerrymandering as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission. He did not. Instead, he went along with legislative leaders in defying a bipartisan majority on the Ohio Supreme Court a total of seven times to run out the clock and force voters to cast ballots in unconstitutionally gerrymandered Statehouse and U.S. Congressional Districts in 2022.

Lawmakers refused to enact gun safety measures after the 2019 Dayton mass shooting as DeWine asked, instead opening gun laws. DeWine went along. They overrode DeWine’s COVID health power in 2021. He did nothing. Instead, DeWine backed their unconstitutional gerrymandering. Now those gerrymandered lawmakers have asserted their power over him once again.

In grandstanding speeches Wednesday, gerrymandered Ohio House Republican lawmakers said they want to “protect children and empower parents,” but their override of DeWine’s veto will strip parents of their rights to support their children and get them critical medical care, and, as studies have repeatedly shown, it will drive up LGBTQ+ suicidality and suicidal ideation: So the exact opposite of what the Republican lawmakers claimed.

Earlier Wednesday during a committee hearing on an anti-trans bathroom ban bill, sponsor Republican state Rep. Beth Lear compared gender dysphoria in kids to thoughts of being a bird.

This is what I mean when I say that gerrymandered lawmakers don’t know anything about LGBTQ+ lives, and don’t give a damn about LGBTQ+ lives, yet they are out here making it their No. 1 priority to use their ill-gotten, illegitimate power to assert control over LGBTQ+ lives.

Gerrymandered Ohio Republican lawmakers tried to rip power away from voters in the summer of 2023. They failed. They tried to rip away reproductive rights in November 2023. They failed. Now, angry and desperate to assert their undue power over somebody, they will rip away health care from vulnerable LGBTQ+ children. And DeWine, now adding insult to injury, will interfere in transgender care for adults.

The Ohio House Bill 68 ban is opposed by every major medical association, all of Ohio’s Children Hospitals, the LGBTQ community, guidance counselors, endocrinologists, psychologists, doctors, parents and their trans kids themselves. Our gerrymandered legislature doesn’t care.

They really don’t seem to care about much of anything except comforting the comfortable with corrupt sweetheart legislation, and victimizing the vulnerable with wanton culture war cruelty. For instance, 1 in 5 Ohio children experience food insecurity. Did the gerrymandered Ohio legislature hold 25 hearings on how our government can help feed hundreds of thousands of hungry kids last year? No. They held 25 hearings on attacking LGBTQ+ people.

As we’ve discussed for years now, gerrymandering poisons everything. It pushes politicians to extremes, denies voters their voice, opens the door to corruption, radicalizes political discourse, kills compromise, and disintegrates democracy. Ohio Republican lawmakers would not have the votes to override DeWine’s veto if the Ohio Statehouse wasn’t unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

It looks like Ohio voters will likely have an opportunity to reform redistricting and end gerrymandering in November 2024 by kicking politicians out of the process and installing a citizen-led redistricting commission in their place.

If Ohio voters ever want a representative legislature that is focused on policy that helps instead of hurts Ohioans, they’d be wise to study and consider that proposal.

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends.

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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