A group of nine House Republicans introduced legislation on Wednesday that would remove gender identity as a protected class under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
Current law prohibits discrimination in employment, wages, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices based upon certain characteristics of a person, including gender identity.
The inclusion of gender identity as a protected class in the Civil Rights Act was a major reason the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that sex-change surgeries would be eligible to be covered by taxpayer dollars.
Representative Liz Bennett (D-Linn) expressed deep disappointment. She is the first openly LGBT woman to serve in Iowa’s legislature.
“This bill is unprecedented and spits in the face of Iowa’s history of working to include more and more people in the promise of a good life in our state,” Bennett said. “NEVER in our history, have we used our Civil Rights Code to exclude people. We have a lot of work to do to remove barriers to opportunity for many groups in Iowa, but slowly we have always worked to extend opportunities to more people—not less.”
She concluded with “this has to be stopped.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Tama). It is cosponsored by Representatives Anne Osmundson (R-Clayton), Terry Baxter (R-Hancock), Tedd Gassman (R-Winnebago), Tom Gerhold (R-Benton), Phil Thompson (R-Greene), Tom Jeneary (R-Plymouth), Skyler Wheeler (R-Sioux) and Sandy Salmon (R-Black Hawk).
Nate Monson, who is with the GLBT Youth In Iowa Schools Task Force (which operates under the fictitious name of Iowa Safe Schools) said stripping gender identity from the Civil Rights Act will greatly endanger LGBTQ youth.
“All youth need to feel safe and supported in their communities,” he said. “The Iowa Civil Rights Act for 13 years has protected LGBTQ youth, and this bill would remove those protections. This could increase the risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior amongst LGBTQ youth.”
Wheeler, who was one of the most vocal critics of the flying of the transgender flag over the state Capitol last year, said the goal of the bill is to protect women and the most vulnerable.
“Gender identity can be used to allow biological males to do a number of things that violate women’s basic rights,” he said. “Gender identity can be used to allow males to compete in female sports. It can allow boys to enter into a girl’s locker room at school. It can be used to make taxpayers pay for sex-change surgeries. It can be used to force churches to let biological males use the same restroom as biological females. It can be used to allow biological males to be admitted into women’s shelters, where those women are very vulnerable.
“It can be used to force doctors and nurses to participate in a surgery that is not in the best interest of that person. Gender identity is being used across the country and right here in Iowa to violate our women and the most vulnerable among us. We are stepping up to protect and defend women against this.”