Ohio House Republicans Reintroduce Save Women’s Sports Act

Editor’s Note: Last week’s issue of the Review included a comprehensive timeline of anti-trans bills in Ohio.

On Feb. 15, the Republican-led House of Representatives introduced 52 bills to be referred to House committees. One of these bills is the Save Women’s Sports Act, written into House Bill 6, which is included under the family protection section of the House’s legislative priorities.

Jena Powell, representing Ohio’s 80th District and currently serving in her third term as representative, formally announced her plans to reintroduce the bill to the 135th General Assembly. Powell originally introduced the bill three years earlier in February 2020. However, both versions of the bill failed to make it past their respective chambers of the General Assembly, with the most recent rejection in December 2022.

“The Save Women’s Sports Act is a fairness issue for women,” Powell said when introducing the new version. “This bill ensures that every little girl who works hard to make it on a podium is not robbed of her chance by a biological male competing against her in a biological female sport. We want every little girl to achieve her athletic dream here in the state of Ohio.”

Much of the language of HB 6 is copied from HB 61, the original version of the Save Women’s Sports Act, and there is no new content written into the bill. Un- like previous iterations, it does not explicitly mention how sex would be checked for athletes. Last June, the bill came under fire for including controversial “genital inspections.” Despite the blowback, House Republicans are unwilling to relinquish the prospect of creating an enforcement mechanism for “gender verification.”

“We are working on — or haven’t completed the language on that,” Speaker of the House Jason Stephens said in reference to the genital inspections plank. “I think it’s much, much better — we have over 18 states that have passed similar legislation.”

While there are no requirements for athletes to prove their sex, the bill prohibits accredited organizations or athletic associations from investigating or taking action against schools or individuals for upholding the regulations in this bill. The bill grants two private causes of action, one to schools if they experience direct or indirect harm as a result of maintaining “separate single-sex” sports teams, and one to students who experience retaliation from their schools or deprived of athletic opportunities for reporting a trans athlete on their team.

“Any participant who is subject to retaliation or other adverse action by a school, school district, interscholastic conference, or organization that regulates interscholastic athletics as a result of reporting a violation of this section has a private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, and any other relief available against the entity that takes the retaliatory or other adverse action,” the bill reads. HB 6 would apply to all K-12 schools and colleges in the state, both public and private.

As previously reported by the Review, there is only one known transgender high school athlete playing on a varsity high school team in the state of Ohio. Additionally, both college and high school trans athletes must go through rigorous testing. Specifically, trans women are required to have undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy, and they must compete on the men’s team beforehand. No high school trans athlete has ever won a state championship in Ohio.