Bill barring transgender women and girls from athletics passes Iowa House

The bill passed with 55 voting in favor and 39 against, with one Republican voting with Democrats.


Grace Smith

House speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, speaks to start the opening of the 2022 Legislative Session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Grassley opened the session with a speech. During the speech, Grassley spoke about his youngest child, Chance, starting basketball as a first grader. “Let’s just say we got a little work to do on our left hand dribbling “

Meg Doster, Politics Reporter

A bill that would prevent transgender women and girls from competing on teams matching their gender identity in Iowa’s public schools, colleges, and universities passed through the Iowa House on Monday night after over three hours of debate. 

House File 2416 would divide sports teams by sex in public school districts, accredited non-public schools, regent institutions, community colleges, and other higher education institutions. The bill was introduced by Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Sioux, passed with 55 voting in favor and 39 against, with one Republican, Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, voting with Democrats. 

A Senate version of the bill, Senate Study Bill 3146,  passed through the education committee last week.

The three-hour debate over the bill ran down party lines, with Democrats arguing against the bill on the basis that it’s discrimination, and Republicans arguing for it on the basis of keeping competition fair for cisgender female athletes.

RELATED: Bills targeting transgender athletes passes Iowa education committees

All but one Republican, Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, voted for the bill, and every present Democrat voted against.

A previous version of the bill only addressed athletes in K-12 schools, but Republicans introduced and passed an amendment expanding the legislation to college sports. 

“This bill is not about discrimination,” Wheeler said. “This bill is about protection. Ladies and gentlemen, the House, it’s simple. Girls should not be sidelined in their own sports.”

Rep. Henry Stone R-Winnebago said that allowing transgender women to compete alongside cisgender women would not be fair to athletes assigned female at birth.

“Our daughters and granddaughters deserve to be given a chance to compete, but more importantly, they deserve to compete on a level playing field,” Stone said. “This bill is not state sanctioned bullying. This bill is state sanctioned fairness.”

The majority of legislators who rose in debate were Democrats speaking in opposition of the bill. 

“As a woman who has played sports my whole life. I know that the threats to women’s and girls sports are lack of funding, resources and media coverage, sexual harassment, and unequal pay,” Rep. Liz Bennett D-Cedar Rapids said. “Interestingly, I haven’t seen any bills in this chamber from the majority party addressing these issues.”

Rep. Bruce Hunter D-Des Moines, said different attributes, such as height and body mass, exist among kids who compete with each other, and that whether a child is trangender or cisgender should not be a factor in their eligibility for a team. 

“It makes little difference if your child is transgender or cisgender. How do I know? Because I’ve heard of no complaint,” Hunter said. “And Representative Wheeler can only think of one in the whole state of Iowa.”

Several Democrats said these discriminatory bills drive workers out of the state in a time when Iowa is facing a workforce crisis. 

“This is the kind of bill that drives highly trained individuals away and makes them harder to replace.” Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said. “All those potential workers from out of state are wondering the same thing. Which group are you going to discriminate against next?”

The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is likely to have similar support from the Republican majority. It would then head to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for a final signature before becoming law.