After Ohio HB 68 cleared both chambers of the legislature by wide margins, DeWine – a Republican – let it sit on his desk until hours before the Dec. 29 deadline before issuing his veto.
Republican lawmakers believe they have the votes for an override, but for now minors in Ohio suffering from gender dysphoria can change their bodies with chemicals and surgeries. They can also share dressing areas and other safe spaces with girls' sports teams not to mention endangering girls when competitions turn physical.
Cleveland.com reported that DeWine's focus was on the gender-manipulation procedures and not the bill's sports provisions because DeWine believed the health angle affected more people.
"Just when you thought you couldn't be more insulted by that performance, it got more insulting as it went on," Meg Kilgannon, the Family Research Council's senior fellow for education studies, said on Washington Watch Wednesday.
DeWine fails to protect girls playing sports
"Rep. Jenna Powell, a fantastic pro-life hero in Ohio, wrote this bill to protect women and girls in sports," Kilgannon told show host Tony Perkins. "It very simply establishes that we're going to have teams for women, and we're going to have teams for men; teams for girls and boys in, in the younger grades. It included both K-12 and university-level sports, and it said that we're going to protect women's opportunities in sports."
But the governor, she continued, tipped his hand during his veto announcement.
"When Gov. DeWine dismissed this aspect of the bill as affecting only a tiny handful of people, that really tells you how biased his approach to this entire issue was because clearly, when he says a tiny, tiny handful of people, he's thinking only of the transgender-identified athletes who might be playing sports – a subset of a subset, right?
"He's not considering the female athletes who are going to be playing against those transgender-identified students, those boys who are identifying as girls and who are taking spots away from girls on sports teams, who are competing with their male bodies against females with their female bodies, and boys who can run faster, who are stronger, who throw harder, who kick further, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera," Kilgannon emphasized.
Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer and vocal activist to protect women's sports, spoke to Ohio lawmakers last month.
"Of course, there's a place for every single person to play sports in this country, but unsafe, unfair and discriminatory practices against women must stop," she said.
After DeWine's veto was announced, she wrote on X, "@GovMikeDeWine is a spineless coward that needs to be removed from office."
Gaines added: "Governor Mike DeWine is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. This veto doesn't accurately represent Ohioans, nevertheless Americans. It's our job to let him know that: (614)-466-3555."
Contrary to governor's words, this is no 'tiny' matter
It's true that biological males playing on girls' sports teams isn't a huge issue in Ohio right now. According to Cleveland.com, the Ohio High School Athletic Association said fewer than 15 of its athletes per year have identified as transgender. Their current policy requires male students to prove they've been taking hormone treatments for at least a year or show by medical evidence that they don't have any physical advantage over biological females.
What's also true is the gender-manipulation procedures affect a small number of Ohioans. Estimates put the state's transgender population at under 1%.
But the sports angle of the bill "was not a small matter," Kilgannon argued, noting that the number of girls playing sports in Ohio far surpasses the state's transgender students.
"The boys, too. Boys don't necessarily want girls who think they're boys in the boys' locker rooms either. But it impacts the girls much more severely, and those remarks [by DeWine] were very curious. If you believe the transgender activists, there's no minor surgery happening in Ohio, but the medical procedures are becoming more and more common. That still doesn't come close to the number of children who play sports," Kilgannon noted.
Kilgannon: Ohioans want HB 68
HB 68 passed the House in June (on a 64-28 vote) and the Senate in December (24-8). The votes were mostly along party lines, Cleveland.com reported.
Kilgannon said the fact that both issues were present in one bill shows where most Ohioans stand on each issue.
"This bill rolled them all together and it was showing that 'Yes, we as a country, we have come to terms with this. We are not doing this anymore in Ohio. We're not doing either one of these things. We're not going to waste our time with two bills. We're going to do this with one bill because we know that this is what the overwhelming majority of Ohioans want for their families and for their children.'
"For [DeWine] to veto this is beyond absurd," she concluded.