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Iowa LGBTQ+ group blasts Iowa governor signing anti-LGBTQ bills

School and library organizations are warning that many books long available on school library shelves could be banned

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Governor Kim Reynolds signing legislation (unrelated) May 16, 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

DES MOINES – Courtney Reyes, the Executive Director of OneIowa, the statewide LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, called Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to sign the anti-LGBTQ+ education law behind closed doors an act of “cowardice.” “She is not willing to look trans kids in the eyes and tell them that she does not want them in our state, ” Reyes said.

Senate File 496, which Reynolds signed in a private event on Friday, will ban school books with descriptions or depictions of sex acts; prohibit instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation before seventh grade; require schools to notify parents if a student requests to use new pronouns; and enshrine the “constitutionally protected right” for parents to make decisions for their children, the Des Moines Register reported.

School and library organizations are warning that many books long available on school library shelves could be banned — far beyond the few, controversial titles that have made news in recent years, the Register noted.

The Iowa State Democrats in a statement on Twitter said: “Reynolds is trying to hide some of her worst legislation by signing it into law on the Friday of a holiday weekend thinking that Iowans will forget about it. We won’t.”

Advocacy groups have been joined by individuals also decrying the governor’s signing of the bill. The Sioux City Journal reported that Patrick Baughman, valedictorian of Sioux City West High School’s class of 2023, ended his speech with a declaration for trans rights and against “banned books” during his graduation.

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Iowa

Iowa school district removes 400 books including Buttigieg bio

In the case of the book about Secretary Buttigieg, a reasonable assumption a local official told the Blade was because Buttigieg is openly gay

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Annie's Foundation/Los Angeles Blade graphic

URBANDALE, Iowa – The Urbandale Community School District has removed nearly 400 books including classic literature, contemporary subject matters, and books covering race and LGBTQ+ people from school libraries and classrooms.

Urbandale School District officials are defending their actions, claiming that they are bringing the district into compliance with a law passed last legislative session,  Senate File 496, which took effect July 1, that requires schools to remove books describing or visual depictions of a sex act from student access.

The District’s actions were made public after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Annie’s Foundation, a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Johnston, Iowa in suburban Des Moines. The foundation was founded by a group of parents, angered by the conservative push to ban books, the Florida-based Moms for Liberty in particular that launched a national effort to target books especially dealing with the LGBTQ+ community.

Moms for Liberty issued a statement Monday, saying, “After many school districts ignored parents concerns about sexually explicit books in school curriculum and libraries, concerned parents took their concerns to the Iowa Legislators. As a result, SF496 was passed which clearly states that school provided learning materials must be age appropriate. It is up to each school district to determine which books are age appropriate by using the state’s definition as outlined in SF496.”

The largest problem with implementation say school officials and others is the lack of guidance and clarity as the law is currently written.

“I’m afraid without that guidance we are going to see a patchwork of implementation from across the state because different districts might go about handling it different, differently and that just creates confusion both for our education professionals and also for our students,” said Melissa Peterson, the legislative and policy director of the Iowa State Education Association in an email to Ames/Des Moines ABC News affiliate WOI-DT5.

In a statement from Urbandale Community School District on the implementation, they say in part: “In the absence of guidance from the Iowa Department of Education regarding implementation of Senate File 496, we had to take a fairly broad interpretation of the law knowing that if our interpretation was too finite … our teachers and administrators could be faced with disciplinary actions.”

Annie’s Foundation president and founder, Sara Hayden Parris, told multiple media outlets that after the Foundation submitted the FOIA request, it wasn’t what they expected.

“So I got that list within a few days and was shocked certainly to see all the different books that were on there, especially specifically the case rate list is quite lengthy.” 

A partial list released by the Foundation included a children’s biography of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, titled ‘Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg,’ as well as 1984; The Color Purple; Llama Glamarama; Families, Families, Families; Everywhere Babies; The Family Book; And Tango Makes Three; The Handmaid’s Tale; As I Lay Dying; Madame Bovary; The Fault In Our Stars; A Farewell to Arms; Brave New World; A Separate Peace; Beloved Native Son; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Catch 22; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Many of the books pulled deal with issues regarding race and Black Americans, or historic events such as in the case of Catch-22, the Second World War.

In the case of the book about Secretary Buttigieg, a reasonable assumption a local official told the Blade in a phone call Tuesday afternoon, was because Buttigieg is openly gay and married.

The Iowa State Education Association’s Peterson said, “As we saw from the Urbandale list there were a lot of books that have nothing to do with the depiction of a sex act that also were on their list. We don’t want that kind of patchwork.” 

“To overcome this and get involved now, Peterson added, “I would encourage parents and community members to participate in those school board meetings and in those conversations to make sure that access to quality literature and instruction is not being unnecessarily prohibited because districts are being overly cautious.”

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Fed up, Iowans stage huge protest against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

Frustrated by legislation by Republican lawmakers targeting the state’s LGBTQ+ community over a 1000 people attended the ‘Rally to Resist’

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Frustrated by the onslaught of legislative efforts by Republican lawmakers targeting the state's LGBTQ+ community over a thousand people attended the Sunday 'Rally to Resist' (Photo Credit: Iowa Senate Democrats/Twitter)

DES MOINES – Frustrated by the onslaught of legislative efforts by Republican lawmakers targeting the state’s LGBTQ+ community and especially students, a huge protest crowd estimated to be over a thousand parents, students, educators, faith leaders, community organizers and elected officials attended the Sunday ‘Rally to Resist’ on the West steps of the Iowa State Capitol.

“Iowans have had enough. We understand that our friends, neighbors, and family members are under attack and their rights are being stripped away. And Iowans are unified against anti-LGBTQ bills,” a Progress Iowa spokesperson told the Des Moines Register.

Iowa Senate Democrats welcomed the protestors tweeting: “Today, Iowa students and families showed up to protest all of the anti-LGBTQ bills sponsored by Republican politicians. Senate Democrats were proud to welcome them to the Iowa State Capitol. #ialegis #wesaygay

Iowa Senate Democrats/Twitter

“No politician has the right to tell us which bathroom to use, deny us medical care, dictate which pronouns to call ourselves, ban books and curriculum, roll back civil rights, deny adoption and foster care, do away with marriage equality, or call queer people obscene,” a Progress Iowa press release stated.

The Des Moines Register additionally reported that the rally comes after hundreds of students across Iowa walked out of class last Wednesday to protest the LGBTQ legislation.

Organizers estimated students at 47 schools across Iowa walked out as Republican lawmakers pushed forward with legislation aimed at tightening school policies and state law regarding gender identity, sexual orientation, gender-affirming care and equity, diversity and inclusion.

In an interview with the Register during the rally, Courtney Reyes, the executive director of One Iowa and One Iowa Action, said that in her 3½ years as executive director she has seen a “constant attack” on the LGBTQ community, specifically targeting transgender people.

“People in that building are making laws about us, and they don’t know about gender healthcare, they don’t know what it means to the families that need that service,” Reyes said. “When you threaten to take that away, you’re putting people’s lives in danger.”

“When folks are having their rights taken away, we need our allies to get uncomfortable,” Reyes told the paper.

Protestors rally at Iowa Capitol in protest of recent LGBTQ legislation:

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Iowa Governor notes ‘parental rights’ at anti-LGBTQ+ town hall

Reynolds and Republican lawmakers pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools

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Gov. Kim Reynolds addressed a town hall hosted by the conservative nonprofit Moms for Liberty Feb. 2, 2023, discussing “parental rights” legislation in Iowa. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

By Robin Opsahl | DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators speaking at a “parental rights” event Thursday pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools and policies allowing students to socially transition without their parents’ consent.

“School choice” supporters gathered at Franklin Junior High School  in Des Moines Thursday evening for the town hall event, hosted by the conservative nonprofit Moms for Liberty. Reynolds cheered the passage of her private school scholarship plan in the first weeks of the 2023 session, and promised they were not done with education legislation.

“The last few years have provided so many reasons to be in this fight in the arena for kids,” Reynolds said. “And maybe for you it was how they were kept out of school wearing masks for no good reason. Maybe it was demonizing our country. Or an obsession with race in the classroom … I guess my message to you is, stay involved because parents and freedom still matter in Iowa.”

 A demonstrator yelled over Gov. Kim Reynolds speech while holding up a transgender pride flag at a Moms for Liberty Town Hall at Franklin Junior High School Feb. 2, 2023.
(Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Protesters tried to shout over Reynolds’ speech, with one demonstrator holding up a transgender flag. Others in the room cheered and shouted “USA” as police officers removed protesters from the room.

Supporters celebrated approval of the Educational Savings Account (ESA) program, which gives students an account of $7,598 each year to use for private school tuition and associated costs. The national co-founder of Moms for Liberty, Tina Descovich, said she was excited to hear about Iowa successfully passing ESAs, but said that’s just “one small little portion of issues that are facing public education.”

For years, she said, politicians were not paying much attention to education. But in Iowa and other states across the country, Descovich said parents are putting the issue “front and center” in their state’s policy agendas, and lawmakers in states like Iowa are listening to their requests to let families decide the best educational path for their children.

“I think I think parents want that now, you know, everything in society is more custom made, and so education should be a little bit more accessible and custom made,” Descovich said.

Seven Republican legislators answered questions from attendees about Iowa’s education system. Many questions were focused on class material and discussion around gender identity. Reynolds and parents brought up Linn-Mar Community School District as an example of what’s wrong with modern schools.

The school district has a “gender support policy,” which allows a student to meet with the school to discuss socially transitioning by using a different name, pronouns and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. The district allows children to choose who is involved in those meetings with the school, and lets the child decide whether to involve their parent or guardian.

Lawmaker calls gender-affirming policies a ‘slippery slope’

Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, said school board members claimed the school could not reverse this policy because it would violate state and federal civil rights protections given based on gender identity.

House lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday banning school districts from letting a student use a different name or pronouns than what they were given at birth without written parental consent. House File 190 was also introduced Thursday to remove gender identity as a protected category from the state’s civil rights act.

“Mental illness should not be accommodated as a civil right,” Shipley said Thursday.

When a teacher asked the legislators at the forum about studies that showed the use of a transgender child’s preferred name and pronouns lowers suicide rates, Shipley said there were conflicting reports how to help transgender children with mental health problems. But he said policies like Linn-Mar Community School District’s are a “slippery slope.”

Using a child’s preferred name and pronouns without their parents’ knowledge could lead to them undergoing hormone replacement therapy or having gender-affirming surgeries without their parents consent, he said. How to best support transgender people is a conversation the Legislature will be discussing a lot going forward he said.

“I know other states have done things to prohibit these therapies,” he said, referencing conversation therapy. “So I think this is a conversation we’re going to have to have as a state to really decide what is the best standards of practice of therapy, what do kids need to alleviate the dysphoria and form actual identities that can be healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.”

Lawmakers address concerns about lack of choice access for special-needs students

Multiple parents also brought up concerns about how the ESA program will impact their special needs children. Legislators said they hoped to see expanded private school options for children with special needs, and were in discussions about potential future legislation to encourage more private institutions to special education students and offer more specialized educational programs.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he believes some private schools have not accepted special-education students because they didn’t have the resources. “And this bill was going to give them a lot more resources,” he said. “And so I’m hopeful that that alone is going to allow them to take a lot more special needs children.”

The conservative legislators assured the crowd that they would continue to provide parents more options for their children’s schooling going forward. Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, said Iowa’s decision to desegregate schools 86 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education shows the state has always been committed to school choice.

“And that is all we are asking, and yes, demanding, that we have the ability to educate our children in the best way at the best school that is appropriate for my child’s success. To prepare my boy, my girl, your child, for success,” Andrews said. “And that’s all school choice.”

Moms For Liberty: Giving Parents A Voice Town Hall – IOWA

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Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations.

They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register’s Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa’s 4th District elections.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch and is republished with permission.

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Leadership quits, library closes after complaints about LGBTQ+ books

Some residents accused the library & its previous directors of having a “liberal agenda” over hiring LGBTQ staff & books on LGBTQ topics

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Photo Credit: Gage Miskimen, The Gazette

By Gage Miskimen | VINTON — The Vinton Public Library has lost two directors in two years as city residents have complained about the library’s display of LGBTQ books and books about President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Most recently departing the library was Renee Greenlee, its director for six months. Her experience was as the children’s and family services library assistant at the Marion Public Library and she also had worked at the Hiawatha Public Library and the Kirkwood Community College library.

Greenlee, who left the Vinton post in May and started a new job at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, declined to comment about why she left the Vinton post.

The Vinton library’s board of trustees accepted Greenlee’s resignation earlier this month in front of 100 residents. During the meeting, around a dozen people spoke in support — and against — Greenlee.

LGBTQ books

Some residents have accused the library and its previous directors of having a “liberal agenda” due to its hiring of openly LGBTQ staff members and the display of books on LGBTQ topics. They argued books about religion should be displayed equally.

In March, Brooke Kruckenberg of Vinton said the library had a “liberal agenda” based on book choices and the hiring of Greenlee and her staff, as reported by Vinton Newspapers. She and her mother, Deb Hesson, argued for more Christian content.

“It appears that there is a slow, quiet agenda moving into our local library culture through the staff hiring decisions and the books that have crept in our children’s section of the library,” Kruckenberg said at the March meeting. ”I don’t believe the library is representing our town well with hiring a majority of staff who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community.”

Greenlee at that meeting said of the almost 6,000 children’s materials in the library, seven included headings of LGBT, gay or transgender and 173 were based on Christian life.

While the library board members accepted Greenlee’s resignation, they also adopted an ethics statement and new rules for the board’s public comment period.

The ethics policy says, in part, that board members will respect colleagues’ opinions and will not be swayed by public pressure or fear of criticism, Jimmy Kelly, the library board’s chairman, told the Des Moines Register.

“The purpose is to assure our next director we are supportive of the tasks they need us to undertake,” Kelly said. “And that we understand our role as a board and take that seriously.”

McMahon tenure

Vinton, a town of around 5,000 and the county seat of Benton County, also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. She now is director of the DeWitt Public Library in Clinton County.

McMahon told The Gazette last week she had a good library staff in Vinton, and some library board members who “were utterly fantastic” and others who “were a challenge.”

“Not everyone was as supportive as others when the library needed to stand up for inclusion and diversity in its materials,” she said.

McMahon said she also received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by First Lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris.

However, no formal complaint was made about those books.

“That puts library directors in an interesting position because if no one fills out a reconsideration form, there’s no way for a library to respond,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that everyone can have a right to their own opinion, but they don’t have a right to tell others what they can or cannot read.”

Instead of filing a formal complaint, some people would check out the books and not return them, McMahon said.

“Which is theft of materials,” McMahon said. “Then we had to go through a process to get them back. … We know the folks that had them out had been making complaints to other city officials and people around me without going through an actual process.”

Some residents also argued the library should have more books about former President Donald Trump on display, McMahon recalled.

“The Kamala (Harris) book was given to the library when she spoke there, and the ‘Joey’ book was a purchase request” from a library patron, McMahon said. “It was not deliberate.

“I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. It’s a long process to choose materials typically. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon.”

McMahon said the way she was treated in Vinton quickly became more personal and uncomfortable, to the point she was no longer happy living in that community.

“When they refuse to make a formal complaint and not go through the process, it becomes side conversations constantly, and you can’t even stand up for yourself because you don’t know where it comes from,” she said. “It’s personal, and it’s not even about the job and that’s not OK.

“When I had had enough, we couldn’t function correctly as a library, so I decided to find a community that better fit me as a librarian and my standards for library ethics.”

Vinton library board members did not respond by the weekend to a request for comment.

Update to the story:

The Vinton Public Library, which lost two directors in two years amid community complaints over books, is now closed indefinitely as the interim director has left, too.

The previous directors left after city residents complained about the library’s display of LGBTQ books and books about Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The library board met Tuesday to accept the resignation of Colton Neely, the interim director. Neely, formerly the library’s children’s director, will become a museum curator in Burlington. His last day — and the library’s last day to stay open for now — was Friday.

Vinton, a town of about 5,000 and the county seat of Benton County, will now be without its library for at least the next week, Library Board President Jimmy Kelly told The Gazette.

“As a board, we decided we are going to shut down the library for all of next week and use our meeting time next Wednesday to determine a pathway to provide limited hours and services until the new director is hired,” Kelly said.

The closing date for applications for the new library director was Friday as well.

“We’re hoping we can get a process moving quickly to identify a good candidate,” Kelly said. “It can sometimes take weeks or over a month to get a schedule in line, if the candidate has to put in two weeks at another job, different things.”

Most recently departing the library before Neely was Renee Greenlee, its director for six months. She had been the children’s and family services library assistant at the Marion Public Library and had worked at the Hiawatha Public Library and the Kirkwood Community College library.

Greenlee, who left the Vinton post in May and started a new job at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, declined to comment.

While the Vinton library board members accepted Greenlee’s resignation, they also adopted an ethics statement and new rules for the board’s public comment period. The ethics policy says, in part, that board members will respect colleagues’ opinions and will not be swayed by public pressure or fear of criticism.

“It’s been a challenge. It’s one more thing after the other and it’s been a slow progression,” Kelly said. “We totally understand with Colton … his training prior to this is in museums. It’ the perfect fit for him and the timing is how it happened.”

Vinton also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. She now is director of the DeWitt Public Library in Clinton County.

McMahon previously told The Gazette that she received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by first lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris. She said some residents argued the library should have more books about former Republican President Donald Trump on display.

“I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. It’s a long process to choose materials typically. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon,” she told The Gazette last month.

However, no formal complaint was made about those books.

“A librarian is a public servant and they are not operating under a partisan agenda,” Kelly said. “But perception is reality to some people.”

Kelly said the board plans to set up better support for the next director.

“We could’ve done better with our previous directors, but we are going to set up our next director for success,” Kelly said.

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Gage Miskimen is a reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Miskimen is a graduate of the University of Iowa where he also worked as the Metro Reporter for The Daily Iowan.

eporter, The Gazette

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The preceding combined article was originally published by The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and is republished by permission.

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Iowa Supreme Court rules state discriminated against Trans employee

The first jury case brought under the Iowa Civil Rights Act since amended in 2007 to prohibit discrimination against trans people at work

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Jesse Vroegh with wife Jackie and their dog. (Photo Credit: ACLU of Iowa)

DES MOINES – The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday upheld a verdict by a jury in Polk County that the state had denied healthcare coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming surgery because of being a transgender person.

The Polk County jury found that Jesse Vroegh, a former Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) nurse, was also discriminated against when the DOC banned him from the men’s restrooms and locker room at his workplace.

Vroegh’s was the first such jury case brought under the Iowa Civil Rights Act since it was amended in 2007 to expressly prohibit discrimination against transgender people at work.
The state has since started providing this coverage for all employees, as required by both state and federal nondiscrimination laws.

 “I want to say thank you to those who have made this victory possible. I thank the Iowa Supreme Court for recognizing that transgender people should be treated equally under the law. I want to thank the ACLU and Melissa Hasso for representing me and helping me file this lawsuit. And I want to thank my wife, Jackie, who has stood by me and supported me in all of this. She is an amazing person,” Vroegh said in a statement adding:

“I am doing this so that other transgender people do not have to go through what I have. I am a nurse and I see on a regular basis how important it is for people to be treated equally when receiving medical care. It’s important for all people to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director noted:

“This is a historic victory for civil rights in Iowa, because it makes real the promise of nondiscrimination protections in employment that our legislature put in place for transgender Iowans in 2007.

“Despite those longstanding protections, Mr. Vroegh’s employer, the State of Iowa, repeatedly denied his requests to use the men’s restrooms and locker rooms consistent with his gender identity at work, and the state’s employee health insurance program excluded coverage for the medically necessary gender-affirming surgery for transgender employees, even though it covered the same procedures so long as they were not to treat gender dysphoria.

“The state should have been a model for other employers in its treatment of a transgender worker, but instead blatantly discriminated against Jesse, who only ever asked to be treated the same as his coworkers.”

Bettis Austen then added; “We are so grateful to Jesse Vroegh, our inspiring and brave client, for taking on this first-of-its kind legal battle in our state and doing so much to build support and change hearts and minds for those who will come after him. We are also grateful to the Iowa jurors who saw through the state’s discriminatory arguments and rendered justice for Jesse, and to the Iowa Supreme Court for upholding their verdict. The victory today simply would not have been possible without the stellar work of Iowa civil rights attorney Melissa Hasso, and John Knight, our co-counsel with the national ACLU LGBTQ Rights Project.”

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Iowa students walkout in protest over state’s anti-Trans youth sports law

The students protesting told ABC9 News the law discriminates against transgender students and isolates them

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Screenshot via ABC News affiliate KCRG 9 Cedar Rapids, Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS – High school students upset over the new law signed by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds last week, that immediately bans transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity offered by Iowa public schools, colleges and universities, walked out of their classes Wednesday.

The bill also allows any student who alleges “direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the law’s requirement” to sue a school district, private school or high school athletic association if transgender girls are not banned from girls sports.

This bill marks the second anti-trans bill enacted in 2022, and the 11th state to pass an anti-trans sports ban.

ABC News affiliate KCRG 9 reported that the students at Cedar Rapids Washington High School walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest the state’s new law banning transgender athletes.

The students protesting told ABC9 News the law discriminates against transgender students and isolates them.

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Iowa Republican Governor signs ban on Trans girls in female sports

This bill marks the second anti-trans bill enacted in 2022, and the 11th state to pass an anti-trans sports ban

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Gov. Kim Reynolds signing the law banning trans girls from female sports (Photo by Stephen Gruber-Miller via Twitter)

DES MOINES – Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law Thursday that immediately bans transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity offered by Iowa public schools, colleges and universities.

The bill also allows any student who alleges “direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the law’s requirement” to sue a school district, private school or high school athletic association if transgender girls are not banned from girls sports.

This bill marks the second anti-trans bill enacted in 2022, and the 11th state to pass an anti-trans sports ban.

Rep. Mary Mascher of Iowa City, forcefully told the subcommittee of the Iowa House Education Committee which passed the House version;

“I am adamantly opposed to this bill, because I think it is state-sanctioned bullying,” she said.

Democratic State Senator Zach Wahls, (D-37), told the Blade in an email after passage of the Senate version through the committee; “Republican politicians are trying to score political points and pit Iowans against each other rather than address the real economic issues affecting everyday Iowans. This legislation is shameful and disrespectful.”

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, condemned the signage of the law.

“A blanket ban on transgender student-athletes is utterly unnecessary for Iowa youth, but it will have serious mental health impacts on the most marginalized among them. Sidelining trans students will only contribute to social isolation and stigma that fuels bullying and mental health challenges for young trans people – issues they already face at alarmingly high rates,” said Sam Ames, Director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “To the trans youth of Iowa, please know that you are worthy of love and respect, and what is happening to you is wrong. But you are not alone. We are here for you and we will not stop fighting for you.”

Stephen Gruber-Miller, the statehouse reporter for the Des Moines Register noted that the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union has removed guidance from its website saying transgender girls could fully compete as females if they consistently identified as female “at school, home and socially.”

Gruber-Miller also noted that Gov. Reynolds was in the Iowa Capitol rotunda, where she signed the bill telling the assembled audience that she’s connecting it to Iowa’s “impressive legacy” of advancing women’s equality. Behind Reynolds were signs saying “protect my innocence” and a transgender flag.

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Iowa Senate Committee passes Anti-Trans youth sports ban

“Republican politicians are trying to score political points and pit Iowans against each other rather than address real economic issues…”

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Iowa State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Iowa)

DES MOINES – The Iowa Senate Education Committee passed SSB 3146 Thursday, which would restrict transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

The Senate version is a companion to HF 2309, which allows any student who alleges “direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the bill’s requirement” to sue a school district, private school or high school athletic association if transgender girls are not banned from girls sports. Both versions carry similar language.

Rep. Mary Mascher of Iowa City, forcefully told the subcommittee of the Iowa House Education Committee which passed the House version last week:

“I am adamantly opposed to this bill, because I think it is state-sanctioned bullying,” she said.

Democratic State Senator Zach Wahls, (D-37), told the Blade in an email after Thursday’s passage of the Senate version through the committee; “Republican politicians are trying to score political points and pit Iowans against each other rather than address the real economic issues affecting everyday Iowans. This legislation is shameful and disrespectful.”

“There are many issues that need the attention of Iowa lawmakers right now—this isn’t one of them. Transgender youth already face increased risk for bullying, depression, and suicide, and 85% of say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health,” said Sam Ames, Director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “We urge Iowa lawmakers to stop this bill and its House companion in their tracks, and to instead focus on supporting young trans people, not excluding them.”

During her House committee testimony last week, Emily Piper, representing the Iowa Association of School Boards, told the subcommittee; “This bill creates an unfortunate situation for school districts and our public employees where they’ll have to make a decision as to whether they violate state law or whether they violate federal law.” Piper also told members that the association opposes the bill because it “is going to have serious consequences, not only for our employees, but for the districts and for the taxpayer as we seek to defend ourselves. We ask that you do not put us in this position of having to choose between a state law and a federal law.”

Should these measures pass both the House and the Senate, the legislation will then head to the desk of Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds.

The Des Moines Register reported that Reynolds repeated Tuesday that she believes it’s not fair to allow transgender women and girls to compete in girls’ sports, but said she’ll wait to see the final version of a bill Iowa lawmakers are considering before she commits to signing it.

“Girls have dreams and aspirations of earning a scholarship to help pay for college. Girls have dreams and aspirations of one day competing in the Olympics,” Reynolds said. “So it’s a fairness issue.”

Reynolds, a Republican, last year called for Iowa lawmakers to send a bill to her desk that would restrict transgender athletes’ ability to participate in sports matching their gender identity, but lawmakers adjourned the session without filing a bill.

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Iowa lawmaker: Anti-Trans youth sports bill is ‘State-sanctioned bullying’

“This bill is not about fairness in sports nor has it even been. This is an effort to further isolate transgender youth in Iowa by lawmakers”

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Iowa State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Iowa)

DES MOINES – A bill that would ban Trans youth athletes from participating in girls and women’s sports in Iowa public schools, passed by the subcommittee of the Iowa House Education Committee last week, drew the swift condemnation of the committee’s sole Democratic member.

Rep. Mary Mascher of Iowa City, forcefully told the subcommittee;

“I am adamantly opposed to this bill, because I think it is state-sanctioned bullying,” she said.

“We talk a good game up here about protecting students, and making sure that their rights are upheld and that we honor and give them dignity in terms of their participation in school, activities and sports. And at the same time, we are setting up a system that will allow the state to sanction bullying in our schools.”

Rep. Mary Mascher (D-86) Photo Credit: Iowa House of Representatives

“I cannot abide by that,” Mascher, who taught fifth- and sixth-graders in Iowa City schools for 33 years before retiring in 2009, said. “And I look at all of the issues in the problems that we see students having, the struggles they face every day. Our transgender students deserve better.”

Iowa’s independent media outlet Little Village noted that HF 2309 allows any student who alleges “direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the bill’s requirement” to sue a school district, private school or high school athletic association if transgender girls are not banned from girls sports.

“This bill is not about fairness in sports, nor has it even been. This is an effort to further isolate transgender youth in Iowa by lawmakers who should know better than to use their most marginalized constituents as political pawns,” said Sam Ames, Director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “Research consistently demonstrates that trans youth already face increased risk for bullying, depression, and suicide – and the ugly debates around these discriminatory laws sweeping the country only make matters worse. There are many issues that Iowa lawmakers should be prioritizing this year. Attacking young trans people should not be one of them.” 

During testimony last Thursday, Emily Piper, representing the Iowa Association of School Boards, told the subcommittee; “This bill creates an unfortunate situation for school districts and our public employees where they’ll have to make a decision as to whether they violate state law or whether they violate federal law.” Piper also told members that the association opposes the bill because it “is going to have serious consequences, not only for our employees, but for the districts and for the taxpayer as we seek to defend ourselves. We ask that you do not put us in this position of having to choose between a state law and a federal law.”

The subcommittee also heard from Gavy Smith, a transgender girl who is an active participant in sports at her school, including volleyball, softball, bowling and track and field, the Little Village reported.

“Through my transition, the best thing to look forward to at the end of the day are those sports,” Gabby said. “They help me make new friendships and keep the old ones. They have made me stronger, mentally and physically.”

“If I were told I couldn’t play the sports that I want to and for the gender that I identify as, I would feel less about myself, like I’m being forced to feel different about who I am.”

The bill now goes to the House Education Committee for consideration. If HF 2309 passes both the House and the Senate, the bill will then head to the desk of Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds.

The Des Moines Register reported that Reynolds repeated Tuesday that she believes it’s not fair to allow transgender women and girls to compete in girls’ sports, but said she’ll wait to see the final version of a bill Iowa lawmakers are considering before she commits to signing it.

“Girls have dreams and aspirations of earning a scholarship to help pay for college. Girls have dreams and aspirations of one day competing in the Olympics,” Reynolds said. “So it’s a fairness issue.”

Reynolds, a Republican, last year called for Iowa lawmakers to send a bill to her desk that would restrict transgender athletes’ ability to participate in sports matching their gender identity, but lawmakers adjourned the session without filing a bill.

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Iowa State Appeal Board settles lawsuits by anti-LGBTQ religious groups

The Christian groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion

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The University of Iowa during Homecoming (Photo Credit: The University of Iowa)

DES MOINES – The Iowa State Appeal Board, made up of Iowa state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, Auditor Rob Sand and Department of Management Director Kraig Paulsen, approved disbursing nearly $2 million in state funds to settle two Federal lawsuits brought against the University of Iowa in 2017 after a religious group denied an openly gay student a leadership role. 

According to the Associated Press in a U.S. News article Monday, lawyers for the student group Business Leaders in Christ were awarded $1.37 million in fees and costs for litigating their case. A second student group, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, won their federal court case and will be paid $20,000 in damages and about $513,000 in attorney fees.

The groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

The monetary amounts were negotiated between the university and the plaintiffs in both cases and approved by a federal judge. Monday’s approval by the State Appeal Board authorizes the state to make the payments the AP reported.

In March of this past Spring, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Business Leaders in Christ after the University of Iowa had ordered group was dismantled in 2017 after claiming the student group violated its Human Rights Policy.

As reported by The Daily Iowan, Marcus Miller, a UI sophomore at the time, filed a discrimination complaint against the Business Leaders in Christ after the group  revoked a leadership position from Miller upon finding out his sexual orientation.

A new law that requires state universities and community colleges to adopt policies that prohibit them from denying benefits to a student organization based on the viewpoint of the group was implemented in 2019.

“In addition, a public institution of higher education shall not deny any benefit or privilege to a student organization based on the student organization’s requirement that the leaders of the student organization agree to and support the student organization’s beliefs, as those beliefs are interpreted and applied by the organization, and to further the student organization’s mission,” the law reads.

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