Opinion: Trans-rights case proves America has a way to go on equality

With Aimee Stephens’ Supreme Court case up in the air, we should reflect on all the ways we as a society can improve the lives of our fellow citizens.


Katie Goodale

Margo O’Neill addresses the crowd during a transgender rights rally on the Pentacrest on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Protesters gathered to promote rights in light of the upcoming elections.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

Ever since the Stonewall riots in 1969, LGBTQ rights have made significant headway in America. But there is still much work to be done, and nowhere is this clearer than a case that reached the Supreme Court Oct. 8.

Aimee Stephens is a transgender woman who was fired from her job after coming out to her employer. The reason for firing her was that she did not conform to the dress code of her assigned gender at birth.

Since then, Stephens has been locked in a legal battle with her former employers. What grieves me the most about the situation is that Michigan, where Stevens worked, allows for the legal change of one’s gender identity on documents such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Stephens is, in every sense of the word, a woman. And yet, because Stephens’ employer knew her before she transitioned, she was fired.

This Supreme Court case is critical because of what there is to lose. In some states, people can still be fired for their identity — all it takes to not get sued as an employer is to give a random reason that can’t be disproven. But if Stephens loses this case, that means no person who presents themselves outside of stereotypical gender norms has safe employment.

These attacks on the rights of American citizens can be called nothing but unjust and cruel, and it is a shame that Iowa is still behind on the curve.

Though I do not wish to undermine the importance of this court case, there are other battles going on now that are just as important but do not see such headlines.

Thirty-three states still allow conversion therapy for minors, which has been called “dangerous and discredited” by the Human Rights Campaign. There have been multiple attempts to make it illegal in Iowa, but they have failed. In 2015, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would ban it, but it died without a vote in the state House.

In 2016 the Iowa Board of Psychology voted not to ban the practice of conversion therapy. The board did this not because it’s safe for minors, but because board members thought the General Assembly should be the one to pass any legislation or laws relating to it, even though the board unanimously agreed that the practice should be banned.

Medicaid-covered sex-reassignment surgery in the state is also under attack. Earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court stated that sex-reassignment surgery must be covered under Medicaid. But one month later, the General Assembly passed a budget bill that bans state funding for the surgeries, and Gov. Kim Reynolds passed the bill without vetoing any part of it.

These attacks on the rights of American citizens can be called nothing but unjust and cruel, and it is a shame that Iowa is still behind the curve.

The fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage should do far more for those living in it than it is currently doing. The current inaction is inexcusable.

That inaction can and will change.

With the 2020 election just across the horizon, the people of Iowa have a chance to right these wrongs. It is not just the presidency that is important. No matter who is in the White House, Iowa has the power to do right by the people living within its borders.

We have an opportunity to do the right thing. All it would take is making that transition from hindering the freedoms of our citizens, to doing right by them.