By Mila Madison
Ohio House Bill 658 had its first hearing before the Community and Family Advancement committee on Wednesday, after first being introduced back in mid-May. The bill was sponsored by Republican Representatives Tom Brinkman and Paul Zeltwanger.
If the bill becomes law, it would grant Ohio parents, guardians, and legal custodians the right to withhold treatment for their child’s gender dysphoria if they are under the age of 18. It would also require government agencies and schools to immediately notify a child’s parents or guardians in writing if they exhibit any symptoms of gender dysphoria. It additionally prevents government agencies and schools from providing any treatment, including counseling and therapy, for gender dysphoria without written consent from the child’s parent or guardian. Any government agent or entity who provides treatment for gender dysphoria without written consent would be charged with a 4th degree felony.
“Our legislation makes clear that all government entities—including schools, courts, hospitals, and child placement agencies—must inform all parents or guardians when a child expresses symptoms of gender dysphoria and obtain permission before engaging in any gender dysphoria treatment, program, or therapy,” said Representative Brinkman in a statement made during the hearing. “We have also included penalties for government agents who violate these requirements to emphasize the importance of parental involvement in life-altering gender dysphoria treatment. Additionally, a parent’s refusal to engage in some forms of treatment may not be used against the parent in determining the allocation of parental rights in child custody disputes.”
Brinkman has said that the legislation is in response to a case earlier this year when an Ohio judge removed custody from a 17 year old boy’s parents who were preventing their son from transitioning despite his being diagnosed with gender dysphoria, depression, and anxiety. The parents instead wanted him to undergo Christian counseling to determine the cause of his gender dysphoria. In her ruling, Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon awarded legal custody to the 17-year-old teen’s maternal grandparents, who were in support of his transition and allowed him to receive hormone replacement therapy. The judge also called upon legislators to enact laws that would give transgender minors more legal rights.
HB 658 appears to do the exact opposite by allowing parents to deny a child treatments that may be deemed medically necessary. The bill would give parents and legal guardians the right to force their children into conversion therapy “type” treatments which could ultimately endanger the life of the child. Most notable is the tragic 2014 death of Leelah Alcorn, an Ohio teen who had committed suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming truck after being forced to undergo conversion therapy and being isolated from her friends by her parents.
There is no indication yet as to whether the bill is gaining any traction and if it will ultimately come to a vote.