LGBTQ bills fail to advance in Iowa Legislature

LGBTQ related bills largely failed to advance past the funnel deadline in the Iowa Legislature, though LGBTQ groups are optimistic about representation at the Statehouse.


Katina Zentz

Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, speaks at the Iowa State Capitol on Monday, January 13, 2020. The House convened and leaders in the Iowa House of Representatives gave opening remarks to preview their priorities for the 2020 session. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Rylee Wilson, Politics Reporter

Most LGBTQ-related bills in the Iowa Legislature failed to advance through the funnel deadline, including bills aimed at banning conversion therapy as well as bills placing regulations on LGBTQ topics in public schools.

Leaders of the community said the number of unsupportive LGBTQ bills that did not make it through the funnel signaled that the Legislature is shifting toward a more inclusive system. However, the community did not find representation in legislation that would work to support LGBTQ interests. 

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, introduced a bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy, though the bill did not pass out of committee before the funnel deadline of Feb. 21.

Kaufmann said he decided to pull the bill after realizing it did not have strong bipartisan support, because of reasons including a religious exemption provision and other language around conversion therapy.

“There were groups that had problems with it on both sides of the aisle – some wanted it stronger, some groups wanted it weaker – and I just didn’t feel like I had the consensus to move forward, but I’m committed to continuing the conversation for next year,” Kaufmann said.

Keenan Crow, director of Policy and Advocacy for One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the companion bill in the Senate was more comprehensive.

Crow said Kaufmann’s version of the bill portrayed conversion therapy as a mental-health treatment.

“Conversion therapy is not mental-health treatment, and should in no way be considered that, and we certainly don’t want to write it into law that this could in any way be construed as a mental-health treatment,” Crow said.

Crow said another issue with the House version of the bill was the religious exemption, which would have allowed religious counselors to continue the practice of conversion therapy. 

Damian Thompson, public policy manager for Iowa Safe Schools, noted that although several bills were introduced aimed at limiting civil rights for LGBTQ Iowans, none of those bills passed the funnel deadline.

House File 2164, a bill which proposed removing gender identity as a protected class from discrimination from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, did not advance.

Other bills that did not advance included proposals to ban doctors from performing gender-affirming surgery on minors and requiring transgender athletes to play on teams based on their sex assigned at birth.

“I think that reflects the larger trend that targeting LGBTQ minorities is not something that folks get away with anymore,”  Thompson said. “Frankly, the Republican electorate is not interested in these issues. We’re hearing from Republican leadership in both chambers that they’re not really interested in pursuing these bills.”

Crow said even though this legislation did not advance, it can still affect LGBTQ youth.

“Just because they don’t advance doesn’t mean those bills don’t have a negative impact,” Crow said. “When trans youth see these bills specifically attacking them — their ability to play and participate in sports team, their ability to hear about historical figures that look like them. Those are things that impact their mental health very negatively … regardless of whether or not they become law.

While Kaufmann’s bill banning conversion therapy did not advance, Kaufmann said he hopes to make progress on a bill banning the LGBTQ panic defense, which allows some defendants to receive lesser sentences when they claim an act of violence was committed out of disgust for the victims sexual oreintation or gender identity, which includes murder charges.

“We passed a bill out of funnel that would ban that defense for murder,” Kaufmann said. “We’re working on an amendment that will expand that defense ban to all serious crimes, assault, rapes, robberies. It’s unthinkable to me that you should use someone’s sexual orientation as a means to hurt them.”