Where DeWine, challengers stand on House Bill 616

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine wants Ohio to be an ‘inclusive’ and ‘welcoming’ state, but hasn’t taken a stance on Bill 616, which would restrict how teachers speak about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Like all bills, the real key is the language, and I haven’t seen the language,” DeWine said Wednesday morning at the Columbus Convention Center. “It’s also something that, you know, hopefully the Legislative Assembly will hold hearings on and, you know, hear the pros and cons. So, nothing today from me.”

House Bill 616 would ban discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity through fourth grade in all public schools and most private schools. The proposed legislation would also ban “divisive concepts” such as the 1619 Project and critical race theory. Supporters say the bill is about parental rights; opponents say it will alienate LGBTQ and black people in Ohio.

Hundreds of companies have opposed the anti-LGBTQ legislation, saying it hurts recruitment and productivity. Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers expressed concern that “some of the terms of this bill could impede Ohio’s ability to attract best and brightest to fill those openings and put down roots in Buckeye State.”

So, will legislation like House Bill 616 hurt Ohio’s ability to attract business?

“Our goal is always for Ohio to be a welcoming state,” DeWine said. “We want people here. We want this to be an inclusive state. We want this to be a state for everyone.”

The Ohio House is also supporting a bill to prohibit discrimination in housing or employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. DeWine didn’t take a position when asked earlier this year.

“I haven’t spent a lot of time watching it. I don’t have an opinion,” DeWine said.

What does the rest of the field think of Ohio’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law?

Those hoping to replace DeWine as governor weighed in on the bill.

Former U.S. Representative Jim Renacci campaigned to keep critical race theory out of Ohio public schools. Critical race theory, an academic theory that has been taught at the college level for decades, has recently become a lightning rod in conservative politics.

“Anyone who has a problem with this common-sense bill that prevents kindergarteners from being indoctrinated with crazy, divisive ideas about sex, gender and race is really out of line,” Renacci said. in a press release. “I absolutely support banning teachers from injecting their woke identity politics into the curriculum.”

In a previous interview, Blystone said he opposes the equality and inclusion agenda, which he calls the “indoctrination” of Ohio’s children.

“You weren’t born a racist,” he said. “It’s a taught behavior and it needs to stop.”

Democrats hoping to overthrow DeWine have denounced the bill.

“These Statehouse radicals do not speak for the state of Ohio,” former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Tuesday. “The State of Ohio wants to be an inclusive state that thrives and provides opportunity for everyone, no matter who you love, where you’re from, or what you believe.”

Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley wrote on Twitter: “This is about banning books. This is about demonizing our fellow citizens and blaming the victims. Let’s teach our children to be proud of the America but not to sugarcoat our history.”

Journalist Anna Staver contributed to this article.

Jessie Balmert and Anna Staver are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliate news outlets in Ohio.

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