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Iowa Kills Attempt to Erase Trans People From Civil Rights Law

Iowa capitol building
Iowa capitol building

A bill introduced by nine Republicans won't get a hearing, a legislative leader says.


UPDATE, January 30: The bill will not be considered, says Steven Holt, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. "As Judiciary Chair, I want to assure you that I will not advance this legislation. The first step in the process would be for the bill to receive a sub-committee. It WILL NOT receive a sub-committee," he said in an email to an Iowan, Iowa Starting Line reports. He also tweeted, "This bill is dead."

Nine Republican lawmakers in Iowa have introduced a bill that would remove gender identity from the state's nondiscrimination law -- and if the bill passes, it would mark the first time an entire category was removed from such a law in any state.

The legislation, House File 2164, was introduced Wednesday by Reps. Dean Fisher, Anne Osmundson, Terry Baxter, Tedd Gassman, Thomas Gerhold, Phil Thompson, Tom Jeneary, Skyler Wheeler, and Sandy Salmon. It would delete all references to gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, to which it was added in 2007.

Fisher said the measure is an attempt to prevent further accommodation of trans people in Iowa -- such as housing trans women in women's prisons (ignoring the violence trans women face in men's prisons) or letting trans women and girls compete against cisgender females in sports.

It isn't clear if those matters are at issue in Iowa, but "I think we've just got to nip this in the bud," Fisher told the Associated Press.

There has been controversy over whether Iowa's Medicaid program has to cover gender-confirmation surgery. A court has ruled that failure to cover such surgery violated the civil rights act, and legislators amended the law to exempt the surgery. But that's now being challenged in court.

Civil rights groups immediately condemned the new legislation. "What these representatives are doing is cynical political theatrics at their worst," said a statement issued by One Iowa Action Executive Director Courtney Ross. "Allowing transgender Iowans to be fired from their jobs or denied housing simply because they are transgender is a new low, and they should be ashamed of themselves."

"Discriminating against transgender people -- or any Iowans -- will not make them, or us, go away or stop being who they are," Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, told the AP. "We'll continue to remind legislators of the obvious: Transgender people already do exist; they aren't going anywhere; and they have large communities of Iowans fighting for equality and dignity right alongside them."

The bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, has the endorsement of Family Leader, a prominent Iowa anti-LGBTQ group. It's opposed by the state's largest public employee union and several other groups, the AP reports.

Also this week in Iowa, a legislative subcommittee advanced a bill that would limit what flags could be flown at the state capitol; the bill came after some lawmakers were upset that the transgender flag flew briefly for Transgender Day of Remembrance in November. It will now be considered by a full committee.

And in neighboring South Dakota, the state House Wednesday approved a bill that would make it a felony for doctors to give gender-transition treatment to minors. It would criminalize not only gender-affirmation surgeries -- which are not usually performed on minors anyway, in line with accepted medical protocols -- but also hormone treatment and puberty blockers. There was outcry from LGBTQ groups as the bill advances to the state Senate.

"At the Trevor Project, we know based on the work we do every day that respecting and affirming a young person's identity is crucial to their health and well-being," said Dr. Alexis Chavez, medical director for the group, in a press release. "HB 1057 poses a grave threat to transgender and nonbinary youth in South Dakota, and we call upon South Dakota lawmakers and Governor [Kristi] Noem to stop this dangerous bill in its tracks. This bill actively contradicts evidence-based medical recommendations and restricts parents' ability to support their child with best-practice care, which has been shown to decrease suicide risk. Medical decisions should be made between doctors and their families -- politicians have no role in this intensely personal process." The group has just issued a research brief on the benefits of such care.

"A group of extreme lawmakers, led by Rep. Fred Deutsch, are targeting transgender youth, spreading misinformation and using vicious, harmful rhetoric while doing so," added Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "Deustch and these anti-trans elected officials want to discriminate against transgender and gender-nonconforming South Dakotans, full stop. If HB 1057 were to become law, it would send a strong message to trans youth that they are less than their peers and that lawmakers in the capitol know better than doctors, parents, and trans youth. ... We implore the Senate to vote against this harmful legislation."

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