Rainbow Rant: Gov. Mike DeWine’s Big Lie

The governor said a new ‘medical practitioner conscience clause’ wouldn’t lead to discrimination against queer and trans people, but he’s not fooling anyone

Joy Ellison
Gov. Mike DeWine

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there’s an old joke that perfectly sums up the political situation facing Gov. Mike DeWine:

A man who lived by a river heard a radio report. “Evacuate your homes,” said the announcer. “A huge flood is coming.” His neighbors began panicking, stuffing their belongings into their cars, but the man remained calm. He said to himself, “God loves me. God will save me.”

The waters began to rise, soon reaching the man’s front porch. “Hey,” called a woman in a rowboat. “The town is flooding. Come with me. I’ll take you to safety.” The man shook his head. “God loves me. God will save me,” he said. 

The waters grew higher and higher and faster and faster. The man climbed to the roof of his house. Soon, a helicopter was hovering overhead. “Grab this ladder,” said a paramedic. “We’ll get you out of there.” The man shook his head again. “God loves me. God will save me,” he shouted back.

Sure enough, the man drowned. 

When the man found himself in front of the gates of heaven, he demanded an audience with God. “Lord,” he said, “I trusted in you. I was a good person. I did everything you asked of me. Why didn’t you save me?” 

“I sent a radio report to warn you, and a boat and helicopter to help you,” said God. “What the heck are you doing here?”

Like the man in this story, DeWine refuses to face the obvious. On June 30, he signed into law a state budget that flies in the face of common sense and public opinion. The two-year budget included Amendment SC3909, the so-called Medical Provider Conscience Clause. Under it, queer and transgender Ohioans, as well as patients seeking abortion and reproductive health services, can be refused necessary medical care. While advocates claim the law protects religious freedom, it in fact protects cruelty toward people in their most vulnerable moments. And DeWine signed it readily.

DeWine refuses to read the signs the heavens are sending him. Public opinion polling indicates that 92 percent of Ohioans believe transgender people should have equal access to medical care. Even 60 percent of Trump voters surveyed said that transgender people should be able to live freely and openly. But public opinion doesn’t seem to count for much with the Ohio governor. 

Likewise, DeWine heard from hundreds of concerned queer and transgender people and their allies, who filled the governor’s voicemail box with messages opposing Amendment SC3909. Protesters also visited the Ohio Statehouse. Yet once again, the will of the people wasn’t enough to swing DeWine. 

Then the universe even provided a mated pair of rainbow-colored male lorikeet parrots named Lenny and Squiggy to the Columbus Zoo during Pride month. But DeWine ignored the polling data, protesters and parrots. Instead, DeWine pandered to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. He placed his faith in them  — and trusted the rest of us not to notice. 

Perhaps DeWine interprets the political portents differently than I do. I can respect that, but I don’t appreciate being lied to. In defending his support of Amendment SC3909, DeWine told a whopper that’s fooling nobody. 

When asked why he would support a law that would legalize discrimination, DeWine claimed that discrimination wouldn’t occur. “This is not a problem,” he said, and went on to argue that the law changed nothing.

If Amendment SC3909 simply enshrined into law the status quo, then why would the party of small government pass it? It’s not hard to see that Amendment SC3909 gives the religious right what it has long wanted: The right to deny health care to queer and transgender people and patients seeking abortion and birth control. DeWine cares more about their votes than our lives, and I ask him to have the dignity to say it. Don’t insult the intelligence of all of Ohio by pretending otherwise even as the universe continues to send signs and the waters keep on rising.