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Ohio introduces its own ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

“Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay bill is an insidious attempt to chill & censor free speech in classrooms- lawmakers are trying to erase LGBTQ+ people”

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Ohio Statehouse (Photo Credit: State of Ohio)

COLUMBUS, Oh. – Ohio lawmakers Monday introduced the state’s version of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would limit how sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in schools. 

H.B. 616, introduced by Republican state Reps. Mike Loychik and Jean Schmidt, would ban discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3, applying to all public schools and most private schools. Older grades can discuss the issues, but the material would have to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” 

For violating the bill, educators could face suspension while schools face the loss of state funds.

In addition, the legislation bans other “divise concepts,” like the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory and “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist.”

The proposal follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature on the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and allows parents to sue schools or teachers. Last week, the legislation received a challenge in court, with LGBTQ+ rights groups Equality Florida and Family Equality filing a lawsuit against the law.

LGBTQ+ advocates in Ohio noted the similarities between Ohio’s measure and the one that passed in Florida, calling the legislation “Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay” bill. Statewide LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Ohio deemed the bill is “more dangerous” than Florida’s, calling it “more broad and vague.”

“Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay bill is yet another incidious attempt to chill and censor free speech in the classroom. Lawmakers are effectively trying to erase LGBTQ+ people and skew history in their favor,” said Alana Jochum, the group’s executive director. “Attacks like these are a product of a small minority of people pushing their agenda to dismantle diversity at all costs – and in the process putting educators and families in jeopardy for political gain.”

Loychik touted his legislation in a press release, saying the bill “promotes free and fair discussion.”

Schmidt added: “The classroom is a place that seeks answers for our children without political activism. Parents deserve and should be provided a say in what is taught to their children in schools. The intent of this bill is to provide them with the tools to be able to see what their child is being taught.”

However, Equality Ohio said it would erase an already marginalized group of people and “deeply harm” the more than 30% of LGBTQ+ adults who are raising kids in Ohio.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA), one of Ohio’s largest groups representing educators, also denounced the bill. 

“Why would Ohio want to follow in Florida’s footsteps after it forced a showdown with Disney, one of the state’s biggest employers?” said Scott DiMauro, OEA’s president. “HB 616 is exactly the kind of legislation that could send Intel and other major employers running, hurting our students’ future job prospects for decades to come.”

DiMauro was referring to Intel’s January announcement that it would invest billions and build two new “leading-edge” chip factories in Ohio. 

“These politicians are continuing to use race and sexual orientation as wedge issues to score cheap political points, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” DiMauro added.

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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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