The Iowa Senate passed a bill by a margin of 35-11-3 Monday that would allow student organizations at regent universities to enforce religious rules barring certain groups from taking leadership roles within them.
The bill will need to be passed by the Iowa House of Representatives, in which Republicans hold a narrow 54 to 46 majority and be signed by Gov. Reynolds before becoming law.
A controversial section of the bill would allow for student groups to bar LGBTQIA+ individuals from leadership positions in their organizations if their sexuality, gender identity or expression run counter to the beliefs or mission of the organization.
Student Government had previously voted to endorse this bill, however many senators did not fully understand the legislation when they voted.
After voting to endorse the legislation, many senators said they changed their opinions of the bill once they learned what it actually contained, saying the way the bill was presented to them did not explain the discriminatory nature of the controversial section.
Sen. Sarah Moody, who had abstained, said at the time the controversial section of the bill was not presented how it actually was.
Student Government rescinded their endorsement of the bill Wednesday, amidst a sit-in protest by members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This bill is similar to one from the previous legislative session, coming in the wake of a federal court case between the University of Iowa and a conservative religious student group on its campus.
The federal judge ruled in favor of the group called Business Leaders in Christ who had barred a gay member from a leadership position in the organization. The judge agreed with claims the student group on some merits and the university on others.
The University of Iowa had attempted to deregister the student organization for violating policy saying, “The University’s Human Rights Policy prohibits student organizations from restricting membership or access to leadership positions on any protected status such as race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to federal court documents.
This ruling requires the University of Iowa to allow the group to maintain its position as a student group because the university was not consistently applying their rules against Business Leaders in Christ and other student organizations.