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House Bill 183 passes in the Higher Education Committee

Ohio could be the tenth state to regulate which bathroom transgender students can use at school.

House Bill 183 (H.B. 183), nicknamed the ‘bathroom bill,’ passed the Ohio Higher Education Committee on Wednesday with a 10-5 vote. If passed by the Ohio House of Representatives, the bill would prohibit students from using restrooms that do not align with their assigned gender at birth, despite the student's gender identity. The bill would also require schools to designate gender-neutral bathrooms as either male or female.

Some transgender students, including Evelyn Harvey, worry about the possible repercussions of such a bill. Harvey, a senior political science major and transgender woman, described the bill as invasive.

“I think that across the country, where there have been similar bills … it’s just been a huge privacy issue,” Harvey said. “Not even really mentioning the danger it puts transgender people in or even cisgender people who look like they could be transgender.”

Chad Doran, chairman of College Republicans and junior business economics major, said he supports the bill with the exception of removing gender-neutral bathrooms. He believes providing or not providing gender-neutral bathrooms should be left up to the individual schools, not the state.

“I think a gender-neutral bathroom is a good idea,” Doran said. “Honestly, it gives [transgender people] their safe space, while allowing others to feel safe using their bathrooms that correspond to their gender assigned at birth.”

Harvey said that at Miami University, she is already fearful when using the restroom that aligns with her gender identity and prefers using gender-neutral restrooms. She worries the bill would only encourage more legislation like it.

“I think it opens up extra attention on transgender people who are just trying to go to the bathroom,” Harvey said.

For Doran, the bill is just as much an issue of safety as it is for Harvey. He believes it is dangerous to allow people of differing biological genders to use the same restroom.

“I don’t want somebody with the gender of male in [the bathroom] using the same facilities as my young daughter, especially when I don’t know what their intentions are,” Doran said.

Rob Abowitz, associate director of Residence Life at Miami, said he has never had a student talk about what bathroom facilities other students use. Abowitz said having gender-neutral bathrooms available to students has been beneficial for many students, and he believes there could be negative consequences if the bill passes. 

“[Having gender-neutral bathrooms] helps us with flexibility and housing assignments … for privacy needs or medical reasons and it helps us with gender-neutral housing,” Abowitz said.

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If the bill does pass, Abowitz said Miami’s General Counsel's Office would help Residence Life interpret it and Residence Life would make the necessary changes. Abowitz said Residence Life will work to help students who might be affected by any transition. 

“We’re going to do everything we can within the law to support [students] and help them feel safe,” Abowitz said. 

Before the H.B. 183 is passed, it must make it through the next round of votes at the Ohio House of Representatives.