Senate District 2
Theresa Gavarone
Gavarone Introduces Bill to Protect Freedom of Religious Expression
May 19, 2021
Senator Gavarone (right) welcomed Noor Alexandria Abukaram (left) to the Senate Chamber in February 2020.
COLUMBUS—State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) this week introduced new legislation to protect freedom of religious expression for athletes. 

Senate Bill 181 is inspired by Noor Alexandria Abukaram, a Sylvania Northview athlete who was disqualified from a high school cross-country race because she wore her hijab during the competition.

“The intent is to inspire real change so that this never happens to anyone ever again," said Abukaram. "Working with Senator Gavarone to draft this bill is another step towards real change.”

According to Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) rules, participants are banned from wearing head coverings unless the athlete has been granted special permission by the official prior to the event.

Senate Bill 181 eliminates the requirement for special permission from the OHSAA, allowing athletes to participate in events while wearing items that reflect their religious beliefs.

“The situation Noor Abukaram found herself in is simply unacceptable,” said Gavarone. “We must advance Ohio forward by ensuring that no student has to choose between competing in a sport they love or their religion.”

Senate Bill 181 is a reintroduction of legislation that passed unanimously out of the Senate in the 133rd General Assembly. Senate Bill 181 will now be referred to committee for consideration. 
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