Last-Minute Victory for Trans Iowans in the Iowa Legislature

From the start of session to a surprise, last-minute push, the 89th General Assembly has a been a minefield for LGBTQ Iowans. Particularly those who are transgender.

The longest-lasting push to restrict the rights of trans youth in the state has been one to ban trans girls from participating in school-sponsored sports.

The basic idea behind these trans athlete bills is that students would have to prove their gender with a signed statement from a licensed physician and/or invasive examinations to indicate their internal and external reproductive organs and natural testosterone levels.

Though the initial bill was never heard in committee or referred to a subcommittee, Rep. Sandy Salmon introduced a “Save Women’s Sports Act” amendment in the middle of debate on an education bill.

She argued that trans girls have an unfair advantage over cisgender girls, despite zero evidence showing that trans girls out-compete their cis peers, and then she immediately withdrew the amendment.

The issue resurfaced in late April when Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a Fox News townhall that she would sign a bill banning trans girls and women from competing in women’s sports if it crossed her desk.

Reynolds was part of a panel of other Republican governors when she said it. This year, governors and legislators in more than 20 states have pursued bans like this. Along with other attacks against LGBTQ rights.

Days later, when reporters in a press conference asked about her commitment to signing a bill that didn’t exist at the time, Reynolds said, “Well I think it’s an issue of fairness. Do we have women’s and girls’ sports or not?”

She said then that she’d had conversations with legislators about the best language for a bill to do that. When asked follow-up questions about opposition from the trans community, Reynolds denied that the bill was unfair to trans Iowans.

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When legislation didn’t appear during session’s overtime in May, the measure seemed dead until House Speaker Pat Grassley said he was still looking into the issue.

“”We’re working to see where we can find a level of compromise within the House and Senate because we want to make sure that to make a run this as an issue before we wrap up the session, that we do this right,” he said.

Ultimately, no language appeared and the session officially ended Wednesday night.

“We have a lot of mixed feelings, to be completely honest. Obviously we’re extremely excited that none of the specifically LGBTQ bills were able to make it through, including that last-second attack on transgender kids,” said Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“But, there’s always a but, there are a lot of other pieces of legislation that disproportionately impact LGBTQ Iowans and several of those were able to advance.” They listed the policing bill and the ban on certain types of diversity training as examples.

So though this fight is over for now, the need for action never ends.


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 5/20/21

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