Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoes bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he has vetoed a bill that would have banned medical practitioners from providing gender-affirming care for transgender minors, saying he believes gender-affirming care is a decision families should make, not the government. 

The Republican governor said he arrived at his decision to veto House Bill 68, also called the SAFE Act, after listening to physicians and families in a “fact-gathering” mission. The bill passed both chambers of the Ohio Legislature earlier this month, and Friday was the final day DeWine could veto it. The bill also would have blocked transgender student athletes from playing in girls’ and women’s sports, both in K-12 schools and in colleges and universities. 

“Were I to sign House Bill 68, or were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is best for a child than the two people who know that child the best — the parents,” DeWine said during his announcement. 

“This is an issue that has people on both sides have great passion,” DeWine said. “The decisions that parents are making are not easy decisions. You know, they’re just not. What we find in life, sadly, is that many times we are making decisions and neither alternative is sort of what we’d want, but we have to make a decision. And I just felt that there’s no one better than the parents to make those decisions.” 

 Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in a 2019 file photo

Paul Vernon / AP

In vetoing the bill, DeWine has charted a course that differs from many of his Republican colleagues in Ohio and across the country. A number of states have passed legislation in efforts to ban gender-affirming care for those under 18. A three-fifths vote of the members of both the Ohio House and Senate is require to override a governor’s veto, and it’s not yet clear if the Ohio Legislature has the votes to override DeWine’s veto. 

In speaking with families and physicians, DeWine said most families aren’t looking for surgical options, but rather, hormone treatment. DeWine said all parties he spoke with agree gender-affirming care “has to be a process” that involves mental health counseling, and no one should be able to seek treatment without counseling first. 

DeWine said Friday that, based on his conversations with children’s hospitals, roughly two-thirds of children decided not to pursue medication treatment after undergoing consultations. 

“What you learn is everybody agrees there needs to be a process and a focus on mental health,” he said. 

The Ohio governor recognized that many Republicans will disagree with his decision, but said that as the state’s chief executive, “the buck stops with me on this.” 

“The Ohio way is to approach things in a systematic manner, to follow the evidence, to be careful, and that’s really what we’re doing,” DeWine said. “And if Ohio, if we do this, which I fully intend us to do, I think we will set up a model for other states.” 

The Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ advocacy group, praised DeWine’s decision. 

“Ohio families don’t want politicians meddling in decisions that should be between parents, their kids and their doctors,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “Instead, parents, schools and doctors should all do everything they can to make all youth, including transgender youth, feel loved and accepted, and politicians should not be making it harder for them to do so. Thank you to Gov. DeWine for listening to the people of his state and making the right decision for young trans Ohioans.”

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