Republican State Representatives Steve Holt and Skyler Wheeler supported a bill that would add political ideology as a protected class to the Iowa Civil Rights Code.
House Study Bill 67 would add political ideology to protected classes of age, race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, marital status and familial status.
This would prohibit discrimination in employment, wages, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices based upon certain characteristics of a person. A person who claims to be aggrieved by an unfair or discriminatory practice prohibited by the Iowa Civil Rights Act may file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
Kennan Crow of One Iowa (an LGBTQ organization) spoke against the bill.
“It’s not that we’re necessarily against the principle of protecting peoples’ political activities when we’re talking about employment, housing…our primary concern is we believe using a protected class to do this is the wrong vehicle to do so,” Crow said.
Crow suggested protecting individuals involved in certain activities like running for office or attending rallies. He added that utilizing the Civil Rights Act to include additional protected classes may create unintended consequences. Crow said that if you have a molehill in your backyard, you don’t bulldoze the entire block.
“Our belief is that protected classes should be, for the most part, immutable,” he said.
Crow said religion is a little dicey, but everything else in the Civil Rights Code is “immutable.”
“Political ideology is something that our minds change on,” he said.
Pete Hird with the Iowa Federation of Labor spoke against the bill. He expressed concern there is no definition of political ideology. Hird added the group wants to protect people from discrimination, but they don’t want to go too far.
Democrat State Rep. Mary Wolfe said she appreciated Crow’s comments because she hasn’t had much time to consider all of the potential consequences.
“I agree that we all embrace the concept of freedom of speech, freedom of thought and all of that, but I’m not sure at this point that this is the correct vehicle,” she said.
Rep. Wheeler said he wouldn’t have thought of the bill a few years ago, but considering the current cancel culture, he believes it may be necessary.
Wheeler expressed concern with people being “shut down” if they have the “wrong views.”
“The media has fed into this, many Democrat politicians have fed into it already,” he said. “They’ve tried to target those who have supported President Trump. You can’t go after people just because they supported this candidate or this party or this position.”
Wolfe pointed out the bill would only apply to the state, and not individual people.
Holt said that is correct.
Holt, who filed the bill, said he has always believed the idea of protected classes is perplexing. He acknowledged they are well-meaning, but the concept of elevating one group’s rights over another group’s rights has always seemed unconstitutional.
Cancel culture and wokeness, Holt said, reflect the necessity of the bill. The media and big tech are destroying those who do not agree with their philosophy. He pointed to comments by political leaders and media pundits suggesting supporters of President Trump need to be reprogrammed or reeducated.
“I would be just as upset if it was the other way around,” Holt said. “The pendulum always swings one way, then swings the other way.”
Holt said there must be concern for protecting speech and ideology whether people agree with that speech or that ideology or not. A 20-year veteran of the Marines, Holt said at 62 years old, he’s been in a lot of places in the world and is familiar with this philosophy and mindset.
“It’s resulted in horrific events in human history,” he said. “The woke culture, philosophy of intolerance and hatred is a profound danger and disturbing. It is not how our country has been able to be peaceful since 1776.”