Amy Sinclair

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill to expand free speech protections at the state’s community colleges and public universities. Republican Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton said students should be allowed to join any campus group they want without the threat of discrimination.

“But it is also not our place to tell a Christian group, a Muslim group, an LGBTQ group or any other belief-based organization that they must be led by people who do not affirm the very beliefs on which the group was founded,” Sinclair said.

The bill is the legislature’s response after a student group called “Business Leaders in Christ” was kicked off the University of Iowa campus for blocking an openly-gay member from its leadership. Senator Zach Wahls, a Democrat from Coralville, said some people could be denied leadership opportunities on campus if the bill becomes law.

“This is nothing about a person’s religious beliefs,” Wahls said. “This is a question about people who have an identity or belong to a group that has historically been marginalized. Those students are being denied because of who they are.”

The bill passed the Senate on a 35-11 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

(Thanks to Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric)