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Iowa Senate committee passes anti-trans youth sports ban bill

State Sen. Zach Walls sharply criticized measure

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Iowa State Capitol building (Photo courtesy of the state of Iowa)

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 trans girls are not banned from girls sports. Both versions carry similar language.

State 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 Sen. Zach Wahls, (D-37), told the Washington 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 percent 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 Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The Des Moines Register reported that Reynolds repeated Tuesday that she believes it’s not fair to allow trans 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 trans athletes’ ability to participate in sports matching their gender identity, but lawmakers adjourned the session without filing a bill.

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Iowa

Iowa 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)

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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