The Religious Right-Wingers Working to Run Ohio

Over the past few months, Republicans in statehouses across the country have been working diligently to curtail their constituents’ civil rights. After Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in March, public school teachers have been banned from discussing sexual orientation and gender in the classroom unless it is deemed “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” One school district reportedly warned teachers not to wear rainbow-colored clothing.

While multiple civil rights groups have filed lawsuits to block the law, legislators in the Buckeye State have introduced copycat bills to replicate these right-wing restrictions in Ohio. House Bill 616, for example, discourages “divisive” conversations about racism, white supremacy, and LGBTQ issues. As homophobic and transphobic rhetoric becomes more common among Republican officials—and attempted attacks by groups like Patriot Front increase—House Bill 454 would also prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender teens.

Unsurprisingly, these bills have horrified many in the state—particularly young people and marginalized groups who would be affected by the proposed legislation. In early July, local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists, and the Cincinnati Socialists held a protest of around 100 people outside the Ohio Statehouse.

One attendee, Emily, cited the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the rollback of abortion rights as her main reason for attending. In addition to the Supreme Court’s decision in June, legislation like HB 616 would make matters significantly worse in Ohio, according to Emily. “Teaching kids about sexual orientation and safe sex helps reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies.”

In her view, the United States is now in danger of becoming a “Christian dictatorship,” and she didn’t feel like the Democratic Party was doing everything in its power to stop it. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, President Biden called on Congress to codify abortion rights, but failed to offer a comprehensive response himself. Emily called the executive order that Biden issued two weeks after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision “mostly for show.”

“How is this fair?” Maddie Smith, another attendee of the rally, found herself asking when the Dobbs decision was leaked. Smith said she has been speaking out against it ever since. But the collective outrage from grassroots organizations can rarely compete with the interest groups that have lurched our country rightward.

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