Iowa House Education Committee Republicans voted to advance a bill protecting women’s sports on Monday night. The meeting, originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., did not happen until after 7 p.m.
Representative Skyler Wheeler, who managed the bill, said it addresses concerns from Iowans that women’s sports may be “under threat” in Iowa as well as across the country.
“This bill simply requires that biological females are the only ones allowed to play in girls’ sports,” he said.
Democrat Rep. Mary Mascher provided the opposition on behalf of the minority party.
“When I entered the legislature, I promised my constituents that I would never support legislation that discriminated or harmed a group of people,” the Iowa City Democrat said. “House File 2309 harms children. It clearly, clearly discriminates against children on the basis of their sex. This bill creates a barrier for a small, small group of children who are already marginalized by society. But here’s the thing, if we harm one, we harm all. No child should face state-sanctioned bullying.”
Mascher said the Supreme Court has already “settled” the issue.
“They have determined that sex or gender discrimination is clearly illegal in our country,” she said. “But don’t take my words for it, listen to the arguments posed by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.”
Mascher went on to share Gorsuch’s words from the Bostock decision.
“We as Iowans care deeply about fairness for all,” she said. “It’s one of the things I pride myself on. No matter how different people are, it is our job to treat them equally and fairly. After all, the people we’re talking about are our children. It is our job to protect them, not bully, harass or discriminate against them. There has been no documented case in Iowa where a transgender girl playing sports has caused any problem. You can’t give me one.”
Later, Mascher suggested 2 percent of the population is born intersex or has a sex that is ambiguous at birth.
Wheeler said issues exist in Iowa with biological boys desiring to play girls’ sports.
“I’m aware of a half dozen in the state of Iowa, including one in my district,” he said.
Legal guidance from the school boards is that the local school’s hands are tied.
“One case we have literal documentation on is in Iowa City,” Wheeler said. “There is a biological male that is swimming against biological females.”
Wheeler said the biological male said in the media he wants to be more competitive. He also expressed concern at the possibility of Iowa seeing what has taken place in Connecticut.
Wheeler said one biological boy broke 10 records held by 10 separate women in one year.
“In one year he broke them all,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said House Republicans have been told there are three or four total babies per year in Iowa born intersex.
“There are girls that are being harmed because we have not stepped up as a nation,” Wheeler said. “Title 9 was created so girls had a level and equal playing field to compete. And right now, we’re seeing that violated across the nation.”
Finally, Wheeler pointed out that Southeast Polk’s 4×800-meter relay girls’ team ran the fastest time among girls in 2021.
Of the 96 boys’ 4×800-meter relay teams that ran at state, 95 finished. The slowest time ran by a boys’ team would still have been nearly 20 seconds faster than the state-title-winning Southeast Polk squad.
He then held up a photo of the Southeast Polk relay team celebrating its victory and asked if the Democrats on the committee want to take that moment away from the runner.
Democrat Representatives Sharon Steckman, Sue Cahill, Tracy Ehlert, Eric Gjerde, Mary Mascher, Ras Smith and Art Staed voted against the legislation.
Republican State Rep. Garrett Gobble was not at the meeting. His position on the bill has not been made public.