Transgender woman running for Ohio House disqualified for not disclosing ‘deadname’

Transgender woman running for Ohio House disqualified for not disclosing ‘deadname’

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A transgender woman running for an Ohio House seat has been disqualified for failing to disclose her former name on petitions circulated to voters, in violation of a seldom-enforced state law.

Local election officials informed Vanessa Joy, who hoped to run as a Democrat for Ohio House District 50, that she was not eligible to do so, despite having collected the signatures necessary to run.

Joy sought to run in a firmly Republican district covering Stark County, just south of Akron, Ohio.

Officials said Joy violated a little-known Ohio law requiring candidates for public office to list any name changes over the previous five years on their signature petitions. The law, passed in 1995, has several exceptions, including for candidates who change their names after they are married.

Joy, who has legally changed both her name and her birth certificate, told News 5 Cleveland and the Ohio Capital Journal Wednesday that she had not been aware of the law prior to being removed from the ballot. Ohio’s 2024 candidate requirement guide makes no mention of it.

Joy said that, as a transgender woman, she should not be required by law or expected to publicly disclose her “deadname,” or the name she used prior to transitioning.

“In the trans community, our deadnames are dead,” she said.

Intentionally or repeatedly using a transgender or gender non-conforming person’s deadname is viewed by many in the LGBTQ community as an expression of hate toward transgender people, and major social media platforms including TikTok and Discord have banned “deadnaming” under their hateful conduct policies.

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, had banned the practice until April, when the policy against it was quietly removed.

Joy added that requiring transgender candidates to list their deadnames on documents like signature petitions would “undoubtedly” prevent other transgender people from running for office.

The law’s enforcement also comes at a pivotal time for transgender people in Ohio, as the state legislature gears up to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of House Bill 68. The legislation would ban minors from obtaining gender-affirming health care and prevent transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

Ohio House Majority Leader Bill Seitz’s (R) office told The Hill Wednesday that the House expects to have the votes necessary to override DeWine’s veto. A vote is expected Jan. 10.

“The only thing that we can do is try to fight back,” Joy told local media. “That’s why there are so many trans candidates in Ohio.”

At least three other openly transgender candidates have entered the race for state House. It is not yet clear if they will also be disqualified.

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