Bills targeting transgender athletes passes Iowa education committees

Two bills that would exclude transgender students from competing on the team of the gender they identify with have advanced out of committee, surviving the funnel.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Members of the Senate take part in a session within the senate chambers of the Iowa State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Bills that would prevent transgender students from competing on the team of their gender identity passed out of the House and Senate Education committees this week. 

House File 2309 requires K-12 athletic teams be divided into female, male, and mixed sex teams. The bill bases qualification for a team on sex assigned at birth. The bill specifically states students must be assigned female at birth to compete in athletic events designed for girls. 

Republicans, who hold the majority in the Iowa House and Senate, are framing the legislation as preserving female sports. 

Senate Study Bill 3146 is broader than the House bill because it includes community and regents colleges. Transgender students from K-12 and beyond would be prohibited from playing in school sanctioned sports. The bill passed out of committee on party lines on Thursday. 

Sen. Tim Goodman, R-Burlington, the Senate bill’s floor manager, said that schools are looking for guidance and that the state government is there to help with controversial issues.  

Goodman said that SSB 3146 is intended to make school sports fair and that equity was not the issue. He equated a transgender athlete to a business partner who does not put in as much work but receives the same recognition. 

“We’re talking about fairness on this bill. We’re talking about safety, and we’re talking about common sense. You hear a lot that it [common sense] doesn’t exist in the capitol today. It exists. That’s why we’re here on this bill,” Goodman said.

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Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, said that this bill takes decision making power away from professionals who have already studied the issue and put fair policies in place. She said the bill is discriminatory and puts schools districts in a tough spot between state and federal legislation. 

“Transgender girls are girls. Therefore, they should be included in all sports here in Iowa.  We are making a problem where one doesn’t exist,” Celsi said. 

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn and IDP Stonewall Caucus Chair Benton Renaud said this type of legislation is harmful to transgender Iowans who are already vulnerable to harassment. 

“Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans are attempting to write their own prejudices into Iowa law and using their positions of power to go after the most vulnerable among us – children,” Wilburn said in a prepared statement shared on Monday in response to the House bill. “We must let kids be kids.”

This passage of these bills out of committee means they will survive Friday’s legislative funnel. After Feb. 18, any bills that have not passed out of their respective committees will die unless reintroduced through special mechanisms.