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Messages from the President | Ohio HB 616

4-11-22 Ohio HB 616

It is disheartening and distressing that we are once again confronted with news of misguided, attention-seeking legislative actions clearly aimed to promote division, stoke fear, breed misunderstanding, suppress, and marginalize.

On Monday, April 4th, 2022, Ohio state Representatives, Mike Loychik and Jean Schmidt, introduced HB 616 which bears strong resemblance to Florida’s recently passed Parental Rights in Education law, known by many as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The proposed legislation is copied directly from that of other states.

In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey yesterday signed two controversial bills, one making it illegal to teach about gender identity in grades K – 5 and another banning transgender health care for minors. In fact, it criminalizes gender affirming care as a Class C felony, with punishments for parents, caregivers, and medical professionals of up to ten years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. Just weeks ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott unilaterally pushed through a directive seeking to legally charge parents and professionals with child abuse for providing supportive environments to transgender children. A court blocked the order from taking effect, but the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he had appealed and would persist in this fight. Meanwhile South Dakota has a newly passed and proposed law similar to that of Alabama.

Arkansas, Arizona, and Tennessee all appear to be going down similar paths. And now, Ohio’s proposed HB 616, if enacted, would prohibit Ohio teachers working in kindergarten through third grade from teaching students or even having conversations with them about sexual orientation and gender identity.

This egregious trend of state assemblies proposing legislation intended to stifle teachers, discredit doctors and impartial medical and mental health agencies and professionals, criminalize parents and caregivers, and dehumanize young transgender people is indefensible. In Alabama, The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP have announced plans to file a legal challenge to the new law. These bills and directives have been shown to have very little-to-no legal standing. But even as these proposed laws don’t pass or are struck down by courts, they are creating waves of uncertainty and instability for children and youth already at risk, and sending a message that they and their family members are somehow at odds with the social and legal standards in their own communities and country. The just world that we all strive for will not stand for the inhumane discrimination and legal internalized torture that these proposed laws, if ultimately allowed to stand, would promote.

Our duty as engaged citizens is to speak out against ignorance in public schools, and to promote schools that educate with empathy, by providing welcoming and affirming environments. We are obligated to object and resist efforts to criminalize parents and other professionals who provide medically approved and gender affirming health care to transgender youth. How much healthier we will all be when we see the true selves of all the people living among us and we all have space to be who we are meant to be.

Antioch College has a long history of being inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Now more than ever we reaffirm our commitment to being a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ people, especially young transgender people.

Take good care,
Jane Fernandes
Pronouns: she, they
Antioch College