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Anti-LGBTQ+ group lobbies against Ohio sex abuse prevention bill

“Any effort to attach parental consent to this law is another layer of perpetuation of violence, removing power from the victim”

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The Ohio Statehouse (Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

COLUMBUS, Oh. – A bill focused on educating Ohio children about sex abuse prevention is stalling in the statehouse as an anti-LGBTQ+ religious group lobbies against the bipartisan legislation in favor of its own draft that would ban the teaching of same-sex relationships. 

The bill — referred to as Erin’s Law, named after Erin Merryn, a child sexual assault survivor working to pass versions of the legislation across the country – would require school districts to teach grades K-6 about child sexual abuse prevention and educate grades 7-12 about sexual violence prevention. 

Last summer, the Ohio House overwhelmingly approved the bipartisan legislation, with only 8 Republicans voting against the bill. 

Though sponsors believe it has enough GOP support in the Republican-controlled state Senate to pass, the Center for Christian Virtue, an anti-LGBTQ+ religious group, has worked for months to derail the bill, reports the Columbus Dispatch

“Who would not want to protect children?” said state Rep. Scott Lipps, the bill’s prime Republican sponsor, according to the newspaper.

The group is reportedly concerned about the legislation leaving parents in the dark and flying in the face of abstinence-only sex education. However, the bill requires “age-appropriate” education and parental notification.  

But the Center for Christian Virtue argues that the bill lacks a clear definition of “age-appropriate,” and the parental notification clause should let parents opt their children out of the curriculum. The group also thinks the legislation violates state law because it doesn’t stress abstinence.

“If we’re going to do that in the state of Ohio, it’s got to be abstinence-related,” said David Mahan, policy director at the Center for Christian Virtue, according to the Dispatch. “It’s not opinion. It’s law.”

Advocates say allowing parents or guardians to remove their children from the program is dangerous. 

“Any effort to attach parental consent to this law is another layer of perpetuation of violence, removing power, control, agency and autonomy from the victim,” Rosa Beltré, president of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, told the newspaper. “The vast majority of survivors of child sexual assault express that their victimization occurred at the hands of a caretaker, an adult they trusted, a parent.”

After meeting with Lipps, the Center for Christian Virtue submitted its own version of the bill. 

The group’s proposed draft “absolutely guts Erin’s Law,” said Lipps. Among other changes, the draft stresses “that sexual activity is only appropriate in marriage” and discourages any implication that parents aren’t trustworthy, according to the Dispatch. The Center for Christian Virtue views marriage as only between one man and one woman, according to its website

“There’s no reason that we would pass this bill,” Lipp added.

The organization has long advocated against the LGBTQ+ community in Ohio. Last year, Mahan made homophobic and transphobic comments at a church in Cincinnati. The group has also pushed for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the state, including an anti-Trans sports bill and a ban on gender-affirming care for minors

For now, the future of the bill is uncertain, according to the Dispatch. 

“We have a bipartisan bill,” state Rep. Brigid Kelly, the bill’s prime Democratic sponsor, told the newspaper. “We have a lot of support from families, from survivors, from advocates. I would think that those voices should carry weight in the statehouse.”

Still, the Center for Christian Virtue has singled it will continue to push back against the legislation over the details. 

“It’s important in terms of the what, but the how is an issue,” Mahan said. “It’s not like if we oppose (the bill) we’re for abusing children, which is absolutely ridiculous.”

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Ohio Republicans pass anti-Trans sports bill in last minute move

According to Equality Ohio, throughout the policy’s 10-year history, fewer than 20 Trans girls were approved to play high school girls’ sports

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Ohio State House, Columbus (Photo credit: Library of Congress)

COLUMBUS – In an unexpected and eleventh-hour move, Ohio House Republicans passed Wednesday, the first day of Pride Month, a bill that would ban Transgender women and girls from participating in high school and college sports. 

H.B. 61, or the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” wasn’t supposed to make its way to the House floor Wednesday night. But Rep. Jena Powell, a Republican representing a district north of Dayton, added the language to H.B. 151, unrelated legislation that would revise Ohio’s Teacher Residency Program.

In addition to the ban, the bill would also require those accused of being Trans to go through a “verification process” to check their genitals. 

H.B. 151, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Don Jones, passed the House by a party-line vote of 56-28. However, the bill will not receive a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate anytime soon as Ohio lawmakers are not expected to return until November. 

It’s the second time Powell has sought a back door path to pass the controversial measure that Democrats and LGBTQ+ rights advocates have called anti-Trans. 

In June 2021, she added the language to a bill to allow college students to profit off their name, image and likeness. At the time, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement against the legislation. 

“This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations, including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who can tailor policies to meet the needs of their member athletes and member institutions,” DeWine said.

The bill, Powell and other Republicans said, is to “protect” women’s sports. 

“We want every little girl to achieve her athletic dream here in the state of Ohio,” Powell said. 

But statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Ohio called the move “appalling.”

“The health and safety of our youth are not negotiable. This should not be a partisan issue, and we are appalled that our lawmakers are once again causing real harm to LGBTQ+ youth to score political points,” Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, said. “All Ohio youth deserve the opportunity to play on a sports team with their peers without having to hide who they are.” 

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has a policy, which has been in place since 2015, that sets standards for the inclusion of Trans Ohioans in school sports. According to Equality Ohio, throughout the policy’s 10-year history, fewer than 20 Trans girls were approved to play high school girls’ sports. 

The Ohio bill is the latest in a year that has seen over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced. The legislation overwhelmingly targets Trans youth, from blocking participation in sports to baring access to gender-affirming care.

So far, two Republican governors have vetoed anti-Trans sports bills. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, both Republicans, vetoed legislation that barred Trans youth from participating in sports.
In the end, however, the Utah House overturned Cox’s veto days later. Two Utah families filed a legal challenge in Utah state court Thursday against the legislation.

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Cincinnati area high schoolers created ‘Jim Crow’ signs & are disciplined

“These water fountains were labeled ‘blacks only,’ ‘whites only,’ which pushed us back so many generations”

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Colerain High School (Screenshot/WLWT NBC 5)

CINCINNATI – A group of students at Colerain High School in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio posted racist notes mimicking ‘Jim Crow’ segregation-era rules over a pair of drinking fountains then took pictures which were posted to social media earlier this month.

According to officials with the Northwest Local School District, the notes posted over the water fountains were posted for a matter of 30 seconds before being removed by the students. The students involved in the incident posted the signs, took photos and removed the notes before posting the photos online.

“These water fountains were labeled ‘blacks only,’ ‘whites only,’ which pushed us back so many generations,” said one parent who preferred to remain anonymous told Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT 5. “My heart dropped. My heart dropped. I could not believe it. It was so offensive.”

A Northwest Local School District spokesperson called the incident “unacceptable on all levels” and a deviation from the district’s “culture of inclusivity, respect, kindness and compassion for everyone.”

“Upon investigation of the matter, we have learned that the notes posted over the water fountains were posted for a matter of 30 seconds and were never seen by other students or staff members,” the spokesperson said. “The three students involved in the incident posted the signs, took photos and removed the notes before posting the photos online.”

“We want to make sure our staff, students, families and community understands where we stand on racial intolerance, discrimination, racism and hatred. We take this matter very seriously. Those who participated in this tasteless and hurtful act have been issued significant disciplinary actions. This type of behavior is not and will not be condoned or tolerated,” a statement released Wednesday from the Northwest Local School District read.  “The actions that were displayed do NOT reflect the values and the culture we’ve worked so hard to cultivate in all of our schools across the district. NWLSD stands firm in creating a culture of inclusivity, respect, kindness and compassion for everyone. As a school community it’s our responsibility to uphold these values and we will not tolerate any action from anyone that compromises or disrupts that culture.”

About 30% of the high school’s 1,730 students are Black, according to U.S. News and World Report. About 49% is white.

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Retired Trans firefighter asks Ohio City to oppose state’s anti-LGBTQ bills

“I cannot believe that either of these pieces of legislation reflects the morals of the citizens of Ohio…”

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Roberta "Bobbi" Ullinger & spouse Cathy (Bobbi Ullinger/Facebook)

KENT, Oh. – A retired Kent fire department captain in suburban Akron is asking her city council to oppose and issue a resolution on two bills pending in the Ohio legislature that she says would harm the LGBTQ+ community.

Roberta “Bobbi” Ullinger, a forty years-long resident of Kent and who retired as a Captain with the Kent Fire Department after 26 years, appeared before the city’s elected leaders and asked the City Council to approve a resolution denouncing House Bill 454, which denies “gender affirming care” to Ohio youth, and House Bill 616, Ohio’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would go further by banning books with “divisive content,” such as those denouncing racism, the Record-Courier newspaper reported.

In an interview published Tuesday, May 10 by the paper, Ullinger said she “always knew she was different” but was unable to define the issue until she was in her mid-40s. She came out to her wife, who she said had always identified as a “straight, cisgender woman” in 2007. Cathy, he said, “being the grace-filled, Christian woman she is,” told her spouse they would figure things out.

“She’s my best friend, the love of my life, and I don’t know what I would do without her,” she said of Cathy.

She said her parents died before she came out, and never had a chance to know that “they had a daughter.” 

Ullinger said her pronouns are “her/she” because, quoting Kai Shappley, an 11-year-old trans girl from Texas, “I like chocolate.” However, she said, her children and grandchildren still are free to refer to her as their dad and grandfather.

Record-Courier journalist Diane Smith reported that Ullinger called House Bill 454 ” a major overreach of government” that would interfere with the relationship between medical providers and parents and their children, and “would put the health and well-being of hundreds of transgender children at risk, many right here in our community.”

She added that House Bill 616 “would take control of decisions about curriculum away from local school boards and severely limit what teachers can and cannot teach our children. It is exceedingly vague and has the potential to sensor any mention of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Speaking to the Kent City Council, the retired firefighter said that she is sure that local youth would be affected by the bills. She has been involved with mentoring the LGBT community since coming out. This year, she said she worked with six students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at Stanton Middle School, half of whom introduced themselves using gender-neutral pronouns. 

“I cannot believe that either of these pieces of legislation reflects the morals of the citizens of Ohio,” she told council. “I know that they do not reflect how we feel in Kent, and would not be supported by a vast majority of our residents. I urge you to pass a resolution condemning these pieces of legislation.”

The Record-Courier noted that Councilmember Gwen Rosenberg, Councilmember Heidi Shaffer, and Councilmember Roger Sidoti agreed supporting Ullinger’s position.

“It’s very distressing, this legislation that’s coming up,” she said. “It is offensive to the citizens of Kent and what we stand for,” Councilwoman Shaffer said.

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