Sen. Green

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have sent the governor a bill to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls sports in Iowa’s public and private K-12 schools. The ban also applies to women’s sports in all colleges and universities in Iowa, limiting participation to athletes who have female marked on their birth certificates.

Senator Jesse Green, a Republican from Boone, called the bill historic. “We send a message to the nation that Iowans will not put common sense aside for wokeness,” Green said. “In the midst of an ongoing culture war, Iowans are taking bold steps to preserve the integrity and purity of athletic competition for generations to come.”

All 17 “no” votes came from Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat from Coralville, said the bill violates the Iowa value of inclusion.

“Iowa politicians have decided to pour gasoline on the culture war fires and embrace the worst form of identity politics, pitting Iowans against each other,” Wahls said. “…Why does this legislature have to police the lives of some of the most marginalized people in our society?”

Governor Reynolds, who is expected to sign the bill, has said Iowa girls are in danger of losing out on college scholarships or winning championships if they’re competing against transgender athletes who were born male, but identify as female. Senator Jeff Taylor, a Republican from Sioux Center, said “transgender ideology” poses a danger to women.

“This bill is not about hatred or discrimination. It is about keeping ourselves in alignment with reality,” Taylor said. “…It simply says, in regard to a non-coed, team context, that girls should be competing against other girls in K-12 athletics and women should be competing against other women in college athletics.”

Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, said the bill will isolate trans youth and is discriminatory, just like previous policies that forbid participation based on other characteristics, like race.

“History is stained with these artificial boundaries that we set up,” Jochum said, “and as time goes on and we start to understand more and more of this, we open up our hearts and our minds and we become a more inclusive society.”

Eleven states have passed similar trans athlete bans and lawsuits challenging those bans have been filed in four of them. Senator Claire Celsi (SELL-see), a Democrat from Des Moines, cited the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the Civil Rights Act protects transgender Americans from discrimination.

“I find this current bill not only legally risky, but petty, partisan, hateful and the reasoning shaky,” Celsi said.

Senator Jim Carlin of Sioux City said he and other Republicans are standing up for girls and women. “We’re just trying to protect time honored boundaries for women and little girls who want the privacy of a restroom and a shower, who want authentic competition in the field of sports,” Carlin said.

The bill passed the House on February 21 by a 55 to 39 vote.