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Judge puts short-term pause on HB 68 in Ohio prior to effective date

The Ohio House votes to override HB 68 in January 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio House votes to override HB 68 in January 2024.

A judge in Franklin County put a short-term pause Tuesday on House Bill 68, a statewide ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors that would have taken effect in less than two weeks, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said.

Attorneys with the ACLU of Ohio and Ohio Attorney General’s office laid out their cases for and against a temporary restraining order Friday morning in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, in front of Judge Michael Holbrook.

Holbrook set bond in the case at $50,000, according to court records. His full ruling was not immediately publicly available.

Filed by the ACLU in March, the original lawsuit seeks to block HB 68 from going into effect on schedule and at all. It is on behalf of two 12-year-old transgender Ohio girls and their families, one from Hamilton County and one from Franklin County, and argues they would lose “critical, medically necessary health care” under HB 68.

The legislation in question blocks trans minors from access to gender-affirming care and from participating in girls’ athletics. HB 68 also bars physicians from prescribing hormones and puberty blockers to minors and creates penalties for those who do. The bill also mandates that K-12 and collegiate teams in Ohio be “single-sex” and enables athletes to bring forth civil lawsuits against any institution that violates that mandate.

But ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Freda Levenson argued Friday that without immediate enjoinment of the soon-to-be law, transition treatments will pause statewide—including for the two girls in the suit, whose identities have been concealed.

“The sad truth is that the plaintiffs will also suffer immediate, very palpable harms,” she said in court Friday.

Erik Clark, with Attorney General Dave Yost’s office, questioned the rush. Clark said the court proceedings should play out normally so the state can make its full case for why the new law is necessary.

“We believe that people of goodwill have differing views on how to handle this difficult situation,” Clark said in court Friday. “We believe parents, doctors, children, youth coaches can disagree, and they can disagree in goodwill.”

More broadly, the ACLU of Ohio is arguing that HB 68 goes against the Ohio Constitution by breaking a single-subject rule for legislation and discriminating against trans minors, among other claims. Last June, two individual proposals become one when the Ohio House folded House Bill 6, the single-sex athletics requirement, into HB 68.

“The legislature made no effort even to pretend there was one subject,” Levenson said. “It didn't even bother to come up with a unified title.”

But Clark argued the bill, in its entirety, addresses trans youth issues.

The ACLU has also cited the recently-ratified Issue 1, which codified abortion rights in the state constitution, as something that extends to the potential protection of gender-affirming care.

Clark said doctors don't have the power to wholly self-regulate, under the Health Care Freedom Act or other laws. “In one medical situation, maybe you'll get steroids, in a different situation it may not be okay. Who makes these rules? The legislature, just as they always have,” Clark said.

HB 68 would have taken effect next Wednesday.
Copyright 2024 The Statehouse News Bureau.