Instead of fixing real issues, Iowa Republicans push 10 bills to discriminate against LGBTQ Iowans

The Iowa House Chamber, file photo. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Ty Rushing

January 29, 2024

We are less than a month into the 2024 Iowa Legislative Session and the Republicans in charge of Iowa’s state government have been busy— and by busy, we mean coming up with new ways to legally discriminate against LGBTQ Iowans.

As Iowans struggle with stagnant wages, budget shortfalls in public schools, worsened water quality, higher home prices, and a nursing home care crisis in an aging state, the folks in charge of Iowa’s legislature over the last eight years have focused on legalizing raw milk, loosening already loose guns laws, putting children to work, and stripping away personal freedoms.

Iowa Republicans have banned many LGBTQ books in schools, banned trans women and girls from competing in scholastic spots, banned gender-affirming care for minors in Iowa, and some even attempted to circumvent federal law and ban gay marriage in just the last two years.

And since the new legislation session started on Jan. 8, they have picked up where they left off. Here are 10 pieces of legislation that have been introduced this year by Republican lawmakers that target the LGBTQ community:

Bill Number: HF 2082

What it does: It would allow some LGBTQ Iowans to be legally discriminated against by removing gender identity as a protected class, and adds a diagnosis for gender dysphoria or gender identity to the disabilities clause of the civil rights code.

Why it’s discriminatory: Its sole purpose is to strip away civil protections from transgender Iowans while also trying to classify them as mentally ill. Read more about the bill here.

Bill’s sponsor(s): Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield)


Bill Number: SSB 3006

What it does: Allows healthcare providers to not treat patients in non-emergency situations if it goes against their “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs” without legal consequences. It also allows insurance companies to not pay for patients’ treatment under similar grounds and without legal recourse.

Why it’s discriminatory: A doctor or nurse can flat-out refuse to treat a person because of their sexuality or gender identity and say it’s for religious reasons.

Bill’s sponsor(s): A proposed Senate Judiciary Committee bill by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale)


Bill Number: HF 2139

What it does: Prevents public schools and charter schools from punishing staff for not calling students by their nickname or preferred pronoun.

Why it’s discriminatory: Last year, Iowa Republicans enacted a law that required school officials to notify parents—or face disciplinary action—if a student wanted to use a different name or pronoun at school, which led to some schools seeking parental permission to call students “Bob” or “Bobby” if their legal name was Robert—the intent was to target trans and non-binary kids only. Under that bill, parents could sign permission slips for their child to go by a different name or pronoun at school.

This bill grants school staff permission to not call a kid by their preferred name or pronoun—even with parental permission—without disciplinary risk or consequences.

Bill’s sponsor(s): Rep. Henry Stone (R-Forest City)


Bill Number: SF 2037

What it does: It bans Iowa cities and counties from enacting bans on conversion therapy bans.

Why it’s discriminatory: Conversion therapy or “praying away the gay” is any emotional or physical therapy used against LGBTQ+-identifying people to “cure” them of homosexuality or gender identity variance, according to WebMD. In extreme cases, conversion therapy can be violent or amount to torture.

Bill’s sponsor(s): Sen. Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville)


Bill Number: HF 2060

What it does: Prevents gender-neutral language from being taught in certain world language classes. Some languages such as Spanish and French assign genders to nouns.

Why it’s discriminatory: It’s another trans/non-binary boogeyman bill that serves no purpose other than punching down on those groups. During a subcommittee on the bill, sponsor Bill Gustoff said two teachers told him they were being forced to “gender neutralize” how they teach foreign languages, but declined to mention the names of the districts when pressed.

However, one Des Moines foreign language teacher did tell lawmakers he teaches students that “elle” can be used as a non-binary pronoun in Spanish, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. He didn’t say he was forced to do this and his reason was that “Students do their best when they can be themselves alongside their fellow community members, and when each of them feels seen, heard and valued by others.”

Bill’s sponsor(s): Rep. Bill Gustoff (R-Des Moines)


Bill Number: SF 2055

What it does: Prohibits all transgender people from using the restroom, changing room, locker room, or shower room of the gender they identify with in all public spaces—like Target or a coffee shop, for example. Any citizen can file a complaint to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office if they suspect that a business violates the provisions of this bill, which means trans Iowans could file a complaint for unsuitable accommodations or, in theory, a person can file a complaint if they suspect a person is using a restroom that they don’t think that person should be in.

Why it’s discriminatory: It further stigmatizes trans people and opens them up to harassment and bullying for simply trying to pee in public restrooms.

Bill’s sponsor(s): Sen. Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville)


Bill Number: HF 2068

What it does: This aspect would modify the social studies curriculum for Iowa high school students including teaching them to argue the “affirmative” position for prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors.

Why it’s discriminatory: Iowa already outlawed gender-affirming care for trans children; this legislation would just force high school students to spend time learning to tell trans kids why they shouldn’t exist.

Bill’s sponsor(s): Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield)


Bill Number: SSB 3094

What it does: While it doesn’t use the phrase, this is basically Iowa’s version of an anti-ESG law or “woke corporatism” as Gov. Kim Reynolds called it.

Why it’s discriminatory: The acronym ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance and refers to those three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business of a company, according to Market Business News. Basically, it’s an investment strategy for people who care how companies use their resources and treat people—like gay or trans people for example. This bill would prevent financial institutions from using ESG standards in investment decisions and it defines those standards as “discrimination.”

Bill’s sponsor(s): A proposed Senate Judiciary Committee bill by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale)


Bill Number: HSB 588

What it does: It legally defines “the term woman” in Iowa.

Why it’s discriminatory: Republican legislators literally won’t say out loud why this bill is necessary—probably because it isn’t—but it’s a dig at trans women and intersex people and they can’t just come out and say that. One of the most telling aspects is that there is no mention of defining “man” in this bill and no companion legislation to do that has been introduced.

Bill’s sponsor(s): A proposed House Education Committee bill by Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Hull)


Bill Number: SSB 3084

What it does: Segregates incarcerated transgender people from other incarcerated people.

Why it’s discriminatory: Forces transgender detainees into unsafe living situations, according to One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

Bill’s sponsor(s): A proposed judiciary committee bill by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale)

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.



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