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OTHER VOICES: LGBTQ Iowans won legislative battles in 2021, but threat of state-sponsored discrimination still looms

OTHER VOICES: LGBTQ Iowans won legislative battles in 2021, but threat of state-sponsored discrimination still looms

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This June, recognized as LGBTQ Pride month, our state finds itself in a precarious position.

There is reason for cautious celebration in Iowa. During the legislative session that adjourned last month, LGBTQ advocates were successful in shutting a slew of prejudiced bills.

Lawmakers this year introduced more than a dozen bills that sought to limit LGBTQ rights, mostly targeted against transgender youth, none of which passed.

We were glad to see those bills relegated to the legislative dustbin but it’s a shame they were introduced at all. And there is a real possibility that lawmakers will attempt to pass similar legislation next session, or even during their special session this summer.

Policies proposed by Republicans during the 2021 Legislature included:

• Require schools to notify parents if students choose alternative pronouns

• Prohibit some gender identity discussions in classrooms

• Bar transgender girls from participating in girls sports

• Restrict bathroom access by transgender people

• Erect barriers to transition-related health care

• Remove gender identity as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act

• Create religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws

What these bills all have in common is that none of them are responses to pressing issues. Instead, they reflect a small group of politically powerful social conservatives lashing out against imagined problems.

It is part of a national trend, with advocates calling 2021 the worst year in recent history for legislative action against gay and trans Americans.

So far this year, at least 17 anti-LGBTQ bills have been passed by state legislators and signed by governors, which is more than the last three years combined, Human Rights Campaign reported last month. More than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced across the country this year.

Lawmakers have taken particular interest in transgender athletes. More than 30 states have introduced bills to exclude them from competition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least seven of those bills have passed so far this year.

That’s the issue Gov. Kim Reynolds pushed onto the agenda late in the legislative session. During a roundtable discussion with fellow GOP governors on Fox News in late April, Reynolds said legislators were “working on” a bill to ban trans girls from competing.

But legislators weren’t really working on it. A bill to that effect had been introduced early in the year and it went nowhere. They made a last-ditch effort to comply with the governor’s request, but didn’t finalize a bill before they ended the session.

The omission could be a stain on the red-state policy playbook Reynolds has been promoting to her national television audience. Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol in August to do legislative redistricting, but they could consider other issues as well. We hope discriminating against trans youth is not on the special session agenda.

Iowans need to stay ahead of these ridiculous bills in the future, making clear that we will not tolerate such destructive and demoralizing attempts to turn back the progress we have made to be an inclusive, welcoming state for all.

Slowly but surely, our world is changing into a place where more people feel free to explore and express their identities. That’s a significant change from generations past, when many genderqueer people obscured their true selves to avoid persecution and physical violence.

Some of our elected officials want to go back to the old way and shove LGBTQ people back into closets.


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