Iowa Senate passes bill prohibiting transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, bill to head to governor’s desk

The bill, which Republicans held as a fairness issue, was called discriminatory by legislative Democrats.


Grace Smith

Members of the House congregate in the House Chamber after the opening of the 2022 Legislative Session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Both the House and Senate Republican leaders said the priority of this session is to return tax funds and address workforce conditions.

Emily Delgado, Politics Reporter

The Iowa Senate passed a bill prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in sports that align with their gender identity both in K-12 schools and Iowa’s public universities.

Republican Senators argued that cisgender girls would be disadvantaged by competing with transgender girls. 

“But this bill is about fairness; it does not exclude anyone from participation in sports. This bill serves to ensure the integrity of girls and women in sports,” said Sen. Chris Courynor R-Scott, in the floor debate on Wednesday. “The integrity and equity that women fought long and hard for so girls, then, today, and in the future can compete in a fair way.”

House File 2416 passed out of the House last week and passed in a party line vote 31–17 in the Senate on Wednesday. 

State Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, used his time to read a letter written by constituents of his arguing for the benefits of team sports for all athletes, regardless of gender identity. 

“The lessons learned in winning and losing teamwork and how to be a good winner or loser. Please pause and reflect on the values you’ve learned being part of a team. If you vote for this bill, you do not support life, just some lives,” Giddens said, reading from a letter. 

Republicans argued that allowing transgender girls to compete goes against the 1972 Title XI Act, which allows for girls to have access to education and sports. 

“There are many other kids and young adults, girls and women who are equally valuable. They do have rights and they deserve protection,” Sen. Jim Carlin, R- Sioux City said. “These rights in this protection include an honest application of Title IX, the integrity of female sports, and fairness during competition.”

But Republicans’ interpretation is inconsistent with federal policy. In June 2021, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance that Title IX protects students based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation. In April, President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to unveil new Title IX rules that enhance protections for transgender students.

Despite voting for the bill, which discriminates against transgender athletes, Carlin said transgender people are worthy of respect, justice, and protection in his floor remarks.  

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Democrats disagreed that this bill would be in line with Title IX, noting that the passage of this bill would be an act of discrimination against transgender athletes. 

We all know deep down that banning trans girls and boys from all the benefits that playing sports provides is wrong,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said. “Trans girls are girls. Trans boys are boys. They are our children. They deserve the same support, nurturing and opportunities of Iowa every girl and Iowa every boy.”

Following the passage out the Senate chamber, Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn issued a statement saying transgender Iowans need love, support, and encouragement at this time. 

“This bill targets kids, teens, and young adults who are already more likely to face bullying and harassment for simply being themselves,” he said. “If Iowa Republicans are truly looking for fairness in sports, then let’s focus on ensuring access to sports for all Iowa children no matter their ZIP code or their family’s finances. Let’s focus on remedying the funding disparities between girls’ and boys’ sports programs at every level.”

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden condemned state action targeting transgender Americans. 

“To transgender Americans, I’ll always have your back as your president,” Biden said. “So you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.”