Iowa’s 2021 Legislative Session started Jan. 11, and bills have already been introduced that would restrict LGBTQIA+ rights.
These bills show an incredible backtracking in progress for the state of Iowa and the United States as a whole. With President Joe Biden in office, many LGBTQIA+ activists were hoping this would be time for progress to resume on LGBTQIA+ issues from the Trump administration, which issued multiple anti-LGBTQIA+ executive orders.
It has not even been six years since same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States; now, lawmakers in Iowa are seeking to restrict the rights and protections of LGBTQIA+ people in Iowa.
So let’s take a look at these bills and what they mean.
Senate File 80, introduced by Sen. Amy Sinclair on Jan. 14, would require staff members from schools to inform parents if their children asked to identify themselves as different pronouns than what is associated with their sex assigned at birth. This action could potentially place those children in danger of homophobic or transphobic parents, who could physically or mentally abuse those children or kick them from their home.
This bill has been sent to a subcommittee, where both Sen. Jim Carlin and Sinclair are members.
House File 193, introduced by Rep. Sandy Salmon on Jan. 22, would make it illegal for medical professionals to provide treatments or surgeries that would alter a minor's appearance to match the gender they identify as. The bill would also empower and provide protections for conversion therapy. It also requires state government agencies to inform parents if their child exhibits any signs that they may identify as transgender.
House File 187, introduced by Rep. Salmon on Jan. 22, would not require schools and churches to allow people who identify as transgender from using the bathroom or locker room of the gender they identify as.
House File 184, also introduced by Rep. Salmon on Jan. 22, would limit students to playing sports and intramural teams of their sex, not the gender they identify as. For example, students of the female sex wouldn't be allowed to play football for a school-sponsored team.
This would apply at every educational level in the state from grade school to higher education, meaning even here at Iowa State University, transgender and non-binary students would be affected.
House File 170, once again introduced by Rep. Salmon on Jan. 22, would allow people to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs and moral convictions, meaning this bill protects the right of an individual to discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Senate File 167, introduced by Sen. Jason Schultz, Sen. Jeff Taylor, Sen. Craig Johnson, Sen. Mike Klimesh, Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Sen. Tom Shipley, Carlin and Sinclair on Jan. 26, would require schools to get permission from a parent or guardian before they can teach students about gender identity, even if those students ask about that topic.
This bill has been sent to a subcommittee, where both Carlin and Rozenboom are members.
House File 272, introduced by Rep. Skyler Wheeler, Rep. Mark Cisneros, Rep. Dean Fisher and Salmon on Jan. 28, would remove gender identity as a protected class in Iowa. This means that if it would pass, people could discriminate against others because of their perceived gender identity in areas such as education and in the workplace.
Senate File 224, introduced by Carlin on Feb. 2, would restrict transgender and non-binary youth from using bathroom facilities relevant to their gender identity. It would force those youth to use bathroom facilities relevant to the sex assigned to them at birth.
This bill has passed through subcommittee and has been recommended for passage by that subcommittee, which Carlin is a member of.
House File 405, introduced by Salmon on Feb. 8, would restrict transgender and non-binary youth from using bathroom facilities relevant to their gender identity. It would force those youth to use bathroom facilities relevant to the sex assigned to them at birth.
These nine bills represent hatred, homophobia and transphobia from Iowa government officials against LGBTQIA+ Iowans; Iowans who are no different than any other Iowan under the eyes of the law. All Iowans deserve protection, they all deserve rights, they all deserve respect.
These bills, though none have passed as of the publication of this editorial, show a large step back from progress. These bills favor hatred and draconian ideals over love and compassion to the fellow person.
None of this is to say that Iowa’s government is completely against LGBTQIA+ Iowans — recently, there have been some bills introduced that are pro-LGBTQIA+ rights.
House File 120, introduced by Rep. Bruce Hunter, Rep. Rick Olson, Rep. Dave Jacoby, Rep. Marti Anderson, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Rep. Bob Kressig, Rep. Sue Cahill, Rep. Ross Wilburn, Rep. Art Staed, Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, Rep. Lindsay James, Rep. Mary Mascher, Rep. Eric Gjerde and Rep. Tracy Ehlert on Jan. 21, would recognize gender identity and gender expression as protected classes under Iowa’s Hate Crimes Law.
House Study Bill 11, introduced Jan. 12, would ban the LGBTQIA+ panic defenses. The LGBTQIA+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.
This bill passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee. Notably, it included an amendment strengthening the language and banning all forms of the panic defense.
House File 376, introduced by Rep. Molly Donahue, Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, Rep. Liz Bennett, Mascher, Hunter, Anderson, Staed and Wilburn on Feb. 4, would introduce inclusive core social studies and sex education standards into the Iowa school system.
"According to GLSEN, curricula inclusive of marginalized communities creates a less-hostile school experience as well as increased feelings of connectedness to the school community for LGBTQ and other marginalized students," according to an Iowa Safe Schools Facebook post. "Inclusive curricula also benefits all students by promoting diversity and educating on the diverse perspectives and contributions of different identities in their local communities. The curricular standards proposed in this bill will lead to safer, more inclusive schools and better standards of learning."
These three bills are incredible steps forward for the Iowa LGBTQIA+ community, but they cannot overshadow the fact that the nine other bills were also introduced. They cannot overshadow the fact that hate still exists in this state, even with a change in administration.
Call your representatives and ask them to fight these anti-LGBTQIA+ bills because more often than not, there is an LGBTQIA+ person in your life, whether they are your child, your sibling, your parent, your friend or your coworker. They are there and they need your support.