Iowa has joined the ranks of several other red states by enacting a “don’t say gay” measure as part of a regressive education law that removes certain books from public schools.
Republican governor Kim Reynolds signed the legislation Friday. The new law bans any lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity before the seventh grade, requires teachers to alert parents if students wish to use new pronouns, and prohibits any books in schools that depict sex or sex acts, The Des Moines Register reports.
Additionally, the new law reduces the amount of arts and language courses required to graduate high school. The new also codifies, in lawmakers’ words, a “fundamental, constitutionally protected right” for parents to make decisions about their children’s medical care, extracurricular activities, and “moral and religious upbringing,” according to the Register.
Reynolds issued a carefully worded press release Friday that intentionally avoided mentioning her new law targets LGBTQ+ youth. The mendacious announcement read as such:
"This legislative session, we secured transformational education reform that puts parents in the driver's seat, eliminates burdensome regulations on public schools, provides flexibility to raise teacher salaries and empowers teachers to prepare our kids for their future. Education is the great equalizer and everyone involved — parents, educators, our children — deserves an environment where they can thrive."
GLSEN, an organization that works to protect LGBTQ+ youth, swiftly slammed Reynolds’s disastrous new law.
“It’s disturbing to see more and more extreme ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans' bills become law in states like Iowa, a state that was once a beacon for inclusion and the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in the Mid-West,” said a statement from GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “This legislation was created to silence LGBTQ+ students and remove spaces for them to be their authentic selves. GLSEN’s recent School Climate Survey showed that students are experiencing increasingly hostile school environments as support declines. These ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bills have a catastrophic effect on queer youth and silence supportive educators who are often a lifeline for them.
“Iowa legislators claim that this bill is meant to ‘protect children’ despite the fact that just weeks ago, Governor Reynolds signed a bill to roll back labor protections for children, allowing them to work longer hours and take jobs that had previously been prohibited. Let’s be clear: These extremist leaders don’t care about protecting our youth.
“As these vicious attacks target vulnerable communities across the country, we must work together to rise up and support LGBTQ+ youth.”
Last year, Florida became the first state to enact such a law, prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and requiring — vaguely — that it be "age-appropriate" thereafter. This year legislators extended the blanket prohibition through eighth grade after the Florida State Board of Education has extended it through 12th grade; the legislation has more force. Eight other states have approved some degree of curriculum censorship regarding LGBTQ+ content, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
Friday's action adds to Reynolds's already extensive anti-LGBTQ+ record. She signed bills into law in March that prohibit the provision of gender-affirming surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone treatment to trans minors and bar trans students in public schools from using the restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity and requires them to get parental consent before seeking other accommodations, such as single-user restrooms. In 2022, she signed legislation that bars trans girls and women from participating on female sports teams in public schools.