Reynolds says her bill to erase LGBTQ Iowans in legal code is ‘necessary’

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Ty Rushing

February 1, 2024

One day after LGBTQ advocates celebrated a trans discrimination bill dying in an Iowa House subcommittee, Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced a new culture-war-driven bill on Thursday aimed at legally erasing queer Iowans. 

HSB 649 would create a new code in Iowa to legally define “sex,” “male,” “female,” “mother,” and “father” and require all governmental entities in the state to abide by these definitions when collecting data.

This law is another attack on trans Iowans and those definitions do not take into account intersex people, and all of the terms are defined narrowly to only identify people by the sex they were assigned at birth, meaning non-binary people wouldn’t legally exist as who they are.

 The bill would also require trans Iowans to use different birth certificates and driver’s licenses that note they are trans. Under current Iowa law, a trans person can change their license and birth certificate to the gender they identify as. 

This provision would force trans people to automatically out themselves whenever they have to present their identification. 

Lastly, the bill also says the term “equal” does not mean “same” or “identical” and that “separate accommodations are not inherently unequal” echoes Jim Crow-era language about the separation of Black and white Americans.

In a release, LGBTQ advocacy organization One Iowa says this measure could be “interpreted to require government-owned, operated, or funded buildings to require transgender people to use the wrong single-sex restroom, including at colleges, libraries, and the DMV.”

The group said this bill is a broad attack on trans Iowans, same-sex parents, their children, and more. 

“We demand that Governor Reynolds stop her cruel, relentless attacks on the LGBTQ community and start focusing on things that matter: funding our schools, lowering our cancer rates, and cleaning up our water,” said One Iowa Executive Director Courtney Reyes.

“Over and over again, the focus at the statehouse seems to be on relegating LGBTQ Iowans to second-class status. We have had enough. We showed up in massive numbers to stop the attack on our trans siblings, and we will show up again if this harmful legislation moves a single step forward,” she continued.

Iowa Safe Schools, another advocacy group that works with LGBTQ youth and allies, also blasted the bill.

“This bill is an affront to everything we’re about as Iowans,” said Becky Tayler, Executive Director for Iowa Safe Schools. “Governor Reynolds has made it crystal clear that transgender Iowans are not welcome in their own state. Our organization would strongly suggest that the governor retake elementary civics class – ‘separate but equal’ is inherently unconstitutional. Iowa Safe Schools will fight tirelessly to ensure our students are afforded equal treatment under the law.”

In a statement, Reynolds defended the bill and cited her 2022 bill that banned trans girls and women from scholastic sports as a reason this legislation is also necessary.

“Women and men are not identical; they possess unique biological differences. That’s not controversial, it’s common sense,” Reynolds said. “Just like we did with girls’ sports, this bill protects women’s spaces and rights afforded to us by Iowa law and the constitution. 

“It’s unfortunate that defining a woman in code has become necessary to protect spaces where women’s health, safety, and privacy are being threatened like domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. The bill allows the law to recognize biological differences while forbidding unfair discrimination.” 

  • 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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