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A large crowd gathered outside the Iowa Capitol Sunday afternoon for what organizers called a “rally to resist” bills in the legislature on LGTBQ issues. Organizers like Keenan Crow of One Iowa urged rally-goers to call, email and visit with their legislators and tell them to vote no.

“I like seeing you in front of me,” Crow said. “I want to see you in front of them. That’s what we need right now.”

Several students spoke as well. Bekah Schurz, a junior at Carlisle high school, said the bills Republicans are advancing send a message that “trans and queer Iowans do not belong here…The only way we can take back the power is to vote. An election is coming and with that will come change.”

Hiawatha City Councilperson Aime Wichtendahl, Iowa’s first openly transgender elected official, urged the crowd to pay attention to candidates running for city councils and school boards who support banning books and other “authoritarian” bills in the legislature.

“Stay frosty and keep that passion into the next election because I have never stopped believing that Iowans are a fair people and they overwhelmingly reject what is happening in this building,” Wichtendahl said.

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst, the first speaker at the more than hour-long event, told the crowd Republicans are taking the state on “a race to the bottom.”

“They want to talk about freedom in this building,” Konfrst said. “You know what freedom is? Freedom is the right to love who you want to love, to be who you want to be, to make your own decisions about your own body.”

Republican lawmakers say they’re responding to parents’ concerns by proposing a ban on elementary classroom discussions about sexual orientation and requiring students use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. Bills that would ban puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for minors are also eligible for debate in the Iowa House and Senate.

Radio Iowa