3 Trans Congressional Candidates Are Being Forced to Challenge an Archaic Ohio Statute

“None of us candidates knew about this when we entered the race,” Arienne Childrey, a Democrat who's running for a seat in Ohio's House, told Jezebel.

3 Trans Congressional Candidates Are Being Forced to Challenge an Archaic Ohio Statute
From left, Arienne Childrey, Vanessa Joy, and Bobbi Brooke. Photo:Facebook

As anti-LGBTQ+ legislation continues its rise throughout the country, three trans women in Ohio are taking on an archaic 1995 statute that’s challenged two of their state congressional campaigns and effectively ended the third. Arienne Childrey, who’s running to represent District 84, and Bobbie Brooke, a West Alexandria native working to be elected by District 40, remain active in their respective races, while Vanessa Joy, a hopeful from District 50 was recently shut out of her chance to win a seat in the Ohio Statehouse.

“Most people are very familiar—thanks to the national news—with what’s been going on in Florida in terms of anti-LGBTQ+ bills,” Childrey, a Democrat from Mercer County, told Jezebel in a phone interview. “Well, I would like to introduce everyone to Ohio, the Florida of the Midwest.”

Last week, Childrey’s campaign was called into question when the head of the county’s Republican party, Robert Hibner, prompted the local board of elections to reject her petition. Childrey’s campaign, she’d learn through the press, has been accused of violating a 1995 Ohio statute that requires political candidates to include all legal name changes within five years of the election date on their petitions. Childrey told Jezebel she didn’t realize the law existed for a number of reasons—namely because the handbook the state issued to those running for office does not include instructions to write her deadname on the petition.

Someone has basically found a loophole and weaponized it.

Days earlier, the same law cost Joy—who said she was also unaware of the statute—her campaign. In a press release posted to her Facebook account this week, she wrote: “Had I known about this law, I would have included my deadname on my petitions.” Her appeal to the board of elections in Stark County was denied on Tuesday.

“None of us candidates knew about this when we entered the race,” Childrey told Jezebel. “What we have learned is that on your campaign petitions and other documents, you must include both your current and former name. Now, the problem becomes that there’s literally no space provided and there’s been no direction on that.”

A photograph of Childrey’s petition, published by the Guardian, shows that the line given for candidates’ names isn’t exactly long enough to accommodate for any and all legal names a person might have.

Most recently, Brooke—the third trans candidate who’s running as a Democrat for a seat in the Ohio statehouse—has also been challenged for the same reason. Both she and Childrey—who remain certified candidates—now await their respective hearings (the latter’s is set for January 18, while Brooke’s is scheduled two days earlier) that will determine whether or not their campaigns are permitted to continue. Both told Jezebel they were hopeful for a positive outcome.

“I’ll never give up fighting for my community and my district,” Brooke said in a phone interview. “It’s home to me. It always has been. Even throughout my transition, I refused to leave. So, I refuse to back down from this fight against the misinformation and intolerance that the LGBT+ community faces right now.”

“Regardless of the outcome of this hearing, the only thing the Republican Party here will have done [in the event of disqualification] is postpone having to face me because I will refile for the next election,” Childrey said. Joy, too, said she has plans not only to fight the statute—with aid from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus and the Ohio Democratic Party Pride Caucus—but to continue fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the state.

Today, there are five anti-trans bills pending in the state’s GOP-dominated General Assembly. Such legislation ranges from empowering school faculty and staff to notify a student’s parents of their gender identity, to banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth, to prohibiting trans women and girls from playing in K-12 and collegiate sports.

“The entire reason I ran—and the reason why other trans people are running right now—is because we are faced with genocide,” Joy said. “We’re terrified, and the only thing that we can do is fight for ourselves because we can’t count on other people to fight for us.”

All three women noted that if the decades-old statute can’t be eliminated, then it should be amended to include explicit instructions in the handbook and on the paperwork. Brooke, Childrey, and Joy also noted that this issue impacts more than just potential candidates who are trans—namely, survivors of domestic violence who’ve made the decision to change their name.

“Someone has basically found a loophole and weaponized it,” Childrey said. “I’m not in any way saying I don’t believe that the law was written with transphobia in mind. I doubt in 1995 when the legislator introduced this bill, we were even a blip on the radar in his mind or the majority of the state legislators.”

“I think that what we’re seeing right now is people desperate to silence the voices of trans people and this is just a convenient tool that they’ve found,” Childrey continued. “And it’s going to blow up in their faces because many of us will use this opportunity to speak out about what’s happening in this state.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin