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Lawsuit says Ohio’s gender-affirming care ban violates the state constitution

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Two families of transgender minors filed a constitutional challenge on Tuesday to an Ohio law that severely limits gender-affirming health care for youth under 18.

The litigation, brought in Franklin County Common Pleas Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Ohio and the global law firm Goodwin, alleges the law — enacted in January after lawmakers overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine — denies transgender youth health care and specifically discriminates against their accessing it.

The legislation in question contains a ban on transgender surgeries and hormone therapies for minors, unless they are already receiving such therapies and it’s deemed a risk to stop by a doctor, as well as restrictions on the type of mental health services a minor can receive.

It also banned transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ and women’s sports. The lawsuit says the combination of the two bans violates Ohio’s single-subject rule for bills.

The office of Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Freda Levenson said the new law “will cause severe harm to transgender youth.”

“These personal, private medical decisions should remain between families and doctors; they don’t belong to politicians,” she said in a statement. “H.B. 68 violates the Ohio Constitution in multiple ways. We will fight in court to ensure that trans youth and their parents can access critically important, lifesaving healthcare without government intrusion.”

DeWine vetoed the law Dec. 29, after touring the state to visit children’s hospitals and to talk to families of children with gender dysphoria. He cast his action as thoughtful, limited and “pro-life” — citing the suicide risks associated with not getting proper treatment for gender dysphoria.

DeWine simultaneously announced plans to move to administratively to ban transgender surgeries until a person is 18, and to position the state to better regulate and track gender-affirming treatments in both children and adults — a move he hoped would allay concerns of fellow Republicans that rule the Ohio Statehouse. But the administration swiftly backed off that plan, after transgender adults raised serious concerns about how state regulations could impact their lives and health.

Ohio was the 23rd state to ban gender-affirming health care for trans youth, as Republican state legislatures seek to stem a trend that they see as dangerous to children. Ohio lawmakers stood their ground on the bill after DeWine’s veto, easily overriding it.

The families who sued Tuesday — going under the anonymous surnames Moe and Goe — asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of the bans come April 24, when they officially go into effect, and to declare the law unconstitutional.

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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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