Public hearing set for Gov. Reynolds’ anti-trans bill

Trans Iowans and allies yell "We won't go quiet" following an Iowa House subcommittee meeting that advanced an anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ bill. Photo by Ty Rushing

By Ty Rushing

February 6, 2024


A public hearing has been set for Iowa Gov. Reynolds’ most recent anti-trans bill, which was renumbered to House File 2389. The bill would establish legal definitions of gendered terms like “man,” “woman,” “mother,” and “father,” and require trans Iowans to have special birth certificates and use separate facilities in public facilities.

The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in room 103 of the Iowa Capitol building on Monday, Feb. 12.

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Original story:

It’s unthinkable to Iowa City resident Clara Reynen that the state of Iowa is considering requiring her wife to have a special designation on her driver’s license that outs her as trans, but that was the impending reality she spoke out against at the Iowa Capitol on Tuesday.

“She is a better woman than I will ever be. She is more of a woman than I will ever be and to say that she should be treated differently because she is transgender is unconscionable,” Reynen said during the Iowa House subcommittee hearing on HSB 649.

Introduced last week, HSB 649 is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill that would force trans Iowans to have a special signifier on their birth certificates—driver’s licenses were also included before an amendment removed that provision—to out them as trans. It would also require public facilities to have separate bathrooms and locker rooms for trans people, and codify heteronormative terms for family units and people.

The bill advanced to the full Iowa House Education Committee in a 2-1 vote. Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) was the lone “no” vote while Republican Reps. Brooke Boden of Indianola and Rep. Heather Hora of Washington voted for it.

The Iowa House Education passed the bill in a 15-8 party-line vote but removed the driver’s license requirement. Steckman also relayed a request for a public hearing before the vote moves to the Iowa House chamber for debate.

Reynolds’ office introduced the bill on Thursday, just a day after the Iowa House Republicans declined to advance a bill that would have allowed legal discrimination against trans Iowans.

Eligh Cade, a 26-year-old trans US Marine Corps veteran, called out the connection between the failed bill and Reynolds’ new bill and the hypocrisy of this legislation being necessary to protect women, as some supporters argued.

“This bill will do nothing but bring harm to an already marginalized community and put the lives of transgender Iowans in danger,” Cade said at the subcommittee. “You claim that … you are doing this to protect women and their rights; however, this bill protects nobody.

“If you actually cared about women’s rights, this state would not cut funding for children. This state would not have made abortion illegal, and the state would take care of people instead of using trans people as a political ploy to keep the hatred alive just so that somebody can get votes.”

Molly Severen, the lobbyist for Reynolds’ office, said this bill should not be controversial and is common-sense legislation akin to the 2022 bill that banned trans girls and women from playing scholastic sports. Trans girls had played sports in Iowa for more than 15 years without incident before that bill passed

“This proposal protects women’s spaces and rights afforded to us by Iowa law and the constitution,” Severen said at the subcommittee. “It’s unfortunate that defining ‘woman’ in code has become necessary to protect spaces where women’s health, privacy, and safety are reaffirmed.”

When pressed later by Steckman, Severan would not specify who the governor worked with on this legislation or why her office felt it was necessary. Severan also did not provide any evidence that women’s spaces had become unsafe in Iowa or that their privacy or health had been endangered.

Jeff Pitts of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition called the bill important—something subcommittee member Steckman would later question—and complained that people are changing the “well-known meaning of words.”

“Outside of enabling discrimination, what would be the purpose of listing people’s transgender status on IDs? I can’t see any other purpose other than discrimination,” Steckman said.

“Trans people account for 0.29% of our entire Iowa population; someone said this was an important bill. I can think of a million other things besides going after 0.29% of our population.”

Rep. Boden said she thinks this bill could be helpful for law enforcement when they pull someone over, and that if the trans community is proud to be trans, they should have no reason to be upset about necessary government documents forcibly outing them.

“What I’m hearing from the trans community is they are proud to be trans and I guess that would be a way to identify it with that and to make sure that your birth certificate represents those things,” she said.

In a statement after the bill advanced, Becky Tayler, executive director for Iowa Safe Schools, said it was “astonishingly undemocratic” that Republican lawmakers rushed the bill through subcommittee and committee in less than 24 hours.

“Governor Reynolds and the lawmakers championing this bill know it’s unpopular—these underhanded tactics were meant to diminish engagement from Iowans,” she said. “The mad dash to eliminate transgender Iowans’ civil rights will remain a stain on Iowa’s history for years to come.”

  • 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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