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Trans Woman’s Ohio House Candidacy Challenged Under Decades-Old Law

Originally published by Ava Sasani for The Guardian

A second transgender woman’s attempt to run for public office in Ohio was challenged under a decades-old law that requires candidates to disclose previous legal names on election documents.

Arienne Childrey, a Democrat vying for a seat in the Ohio house of representatives, learned late last week that the head of her county’s Republican party, Robert Hibner, asked the local board of elections to reject her campaign petition.

Hibner’s letter to election officials comes just days after Vanessa Joy, also a trans woman, was disqualified from running for the Ohio state house. Both Joy and Childrey are accused of violating a 1995 Ohio statute that requires political candidates to disclose any legal name changes within five years of the election.

Childrey learned about Hibner’s letter on Friday, when a local reporter called to ask for comment on the backlash to her campaign.

“I wasn’t surprised to get the phone call. Once the articles started coming out about Vanessa’s story, I knew there was a bullseye on us,” Childrey said.

Joy and Childrey are among the four transgender candidates running for state office this year. Both women’s entrance into state politics comes as anti-trans sentiment is increasing across the country, with a record 510 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced by state lawmakers in 2023.

Childrey is hoping to unseat longtime incumbent Angela King, a Republican. The political newcomer decided to run after King introduced a bill that would prohibit drag performances in public spaces in Ohio.

“After I realized that nobody was going to run against her in the next election, I decided that she could not run unopposed,” Childrey said of her opponent. “If you go to the ballot and there’s only one name, that’s not an election, that’s a coronation.”

Despite the legal challenges brought against her campaign, Childrey remains hopeful that she can beat King in November.

The Republicans’ challenge to Childrey’s candidacy was deemed invalid this week – under Ohio election rules, a letter of protest cannot be filed by a member of the opposing party. Despite that determination, county assistant prosecutor Amy Ikerd told local reporters that the Mercer county board of elections could still proceed with Childrey’s hearing, now scheduled for 18 January.

For Joy, her bid for a seat in the state house came to an abrupt halt this week: her appeal to the board of elections was denied.

Both Joy and Childrey said they were unaware of the 1995 statute requiring them to disclose their “deadname” – a term used by trans people to refer to the name given at birth, not one they chose that aligns with their gender identity.

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