Bill to remove protection against gender identity discrimination from Iowa Civil Rights Act gets a scheduled hearing
Bill to remove protection against gender identity discrimination from Iowa Civil Rights Act gets a scheduled hearing
Bill to remove protection against gender identity discrimination from Iowa Civil Rights Act gets a scheduled hearing 1
An attendee holds a sign reading, “Someone you know is trans, we are here!” at the Transgender Day of Visibility Rally at Public Space One’s Close House on Saturday, April 2, 2022. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village
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Since taking control of both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in 2017, Republicans have repeatedly passed discriminatory legislation targeting transgender Iowans with the full support of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has signed those bills and other anti-LGBTQ legislation into law. But even when pushing through those bills almost exclusively on party-line votes, Republicans still understood the laws they were creating might be struck down, because the Iowa Civil Rights Act had been amended in 2007 to protect Iowans from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In recent years, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to remove gender identity protection from the civil rights act, but those bills all died without even being assigned to a subcommittee, the first step in a bill being passed. That changed on Thursday, as a subcommittee hearing was scheduled for HF 2082.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Fairfield. The House Judiciary Committee hearing will take place Wednesday, Jan. 31.

HF 2082 wouldn’t just remove gender identity protection from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, it would also define “any condition related to a gender identity disorder” as a “disability.” It’s not the first time Shipley has characterized being transgender as an illness.

During the 2022 debate on the bill to ban transgender girls and women from participating in school or college sports on teams that match their gender, most House Republicans avoided using blatantly anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Not Shipley.

“There are a lot of Iowans who suffer from gender dysphoria and related illnesses, so I would like to start by calling the Holy Spirit to be upon us and guide us during this discussion for the benefit and uplifting of all Iowans,” he said during the floor debate, before the Republican majority passed the bill.

Bill to remove protection against gender identity discrimination from Iowa Civil Rights Act gets a scheduled hearing 2
Rep. Jeff Shipley, photographed with Gov. Kim Reynolds, has spearheaded efforts to eliminate COVID-19 protections and vaccine mandates, remove certain books from Iowa schools, and ban margarine. — @JeffShipley77 on Twitter (cropped)

Shipley claimed that an individual who embraces their identity as a transgender person is suffering from a mental illness — an antiquated, misguided and deeply harmful falsehood. He also asserted that supporting trans individuals is analogous to supporting a cancer that is killing someone.

“If a person had a malignant sarcoma would the proper treatment be affirmation?” he asked during his floor speech. “No, a sarcoma would be treated with aggressive therapies to remove or heal the cancerous growth and that same medical framework should be applied to the epidemic of identity disorders.”

Judiciary Committee Chair Steven Holt, a Republican representative from Dennison, scheduled the subcommittee hearing.

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“I just want to hear a conversation about it,” Holt said, explaining his decision. “I want to have a subcommittee and hear a conversation about it.”

Holt suggested the gender protection in the Iowa Civil Rights Act wasn’t actually very important.

“I think there’s plenty of other places in federal and in state law that would prevent discrimination,” Holt said. “Because I think we should all be opposed to discrimination based upon someone’s skin color or gender identity or whatever the case may be.”

Holt has voted for all the anti-trans bills passed by the Iowa Legislature, and was the floor manager in the House for last year’s bill preventing transgender Iowans under 18 from receiving gender-affirming care.

Bill to remove protection against gender identity discrimination from Iowa Civil Rights Act gets a scheduled hearing 3
Rep. Steven Holt/Official Iowa House of Representatives photo

If HF 2082 becomes law, Iowa would be the first state to remove gender identity as a protected category after adding it to its civil rights law.

Protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual identity was added to the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 2007, when Democrats controlled both the Iowa House and Senate. Adding those protections faced strong opposition from Republicans in the legislature, but a handful of Republicans representing urban areas of the state voted for the bill adding the protections after it was amended to ensure it would not legalize same-sex marriage. (Two years later, same-sex marriage was legalized in the state thanks to the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in Varnum v. Brien.)

“We send a message that Iowa is a welcoming place that values each of its citizens, whether it’s in the neighborhood or in the work place,” Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, said at the ceremony where he signed the bill into law. “We send a message that intolerance and discrimination have no place in our state.”


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