Students across Iowa walk out in protest of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

Over 100 Iowa City High Students marched to the Old Capitol Building to protest the several anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced in the Iowa Legislature.


Rohan Abernathy-Wee

Protestors stand in front of the Old Capital on Mar. 1, 2023.

Emily Delgado, Politics Reporter

Iowa City High School students left class Wednesday to march toward the University of Iowa Old Capitol in a statewide protest of several anti-LGBTQ+ bills recently introduced in the Iowa Legislature. 

Some students, and several state and Johnson County officials, voiced experiences as LGBTQ+ individuals in Iowa and urged lawmakers to vote against the bills. The proposed legislation relates to gender identity in terms of gender-affirming surgery, rhetoric, and teaching in schools. The students were protesting 29 bills that target LGBTQ+ people in the state of Iowa. 

Students also organized in Des Moines and Waterloo in Iowa on Wednesday through the group, Iowa WTF. 

Dylan Bowman, a junior at Iowa City High and a victim of homophobia, said protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is important because the bills are harmful to LGBTQ+ individuals. 

“I was so hurt on a daily basis, and I decided to march because I feel like we should not be — as people — treated as less than,” Bowman said. 

Bowmen was one of the hundreds of students who took part in a statewide and student-organized protest against anti-trans legislation. 

Twenty-nine anti-LGBTQ+ introduced Iowa Legislature this year 

The legislation, House File 348 and Senate File 83, if passed, will limit what schools can teach in terms of gender identity, and sexual orientation in Iowa schools. Senate File 110 and Senate File 129  would affect treatment regarding gender identity. 

With a legislative deadline looming, the Iowa Legislature introduced House File 508 this week, which would remove protections for same-sex marriage in the state. 

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague also spoke at the protest. Also in attendance were Johnson County Supervisors V Fixmer-Oraiz and Jon Green. 

“As your leader, I’m the Mayor of Iowa City and as your leader, I stand in full solidarity and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ rights,” Teague said. 

Harry Winter Epstein, an Iowa City High senior, said the proposed legislation would strip LGBTQ+ people of their rights. 

Winter Epstein said Wednesday’s protest was the second time she has had to protest anti-LGBTQ legislation. During the 2022 Iowa Legislative session, similar anti-LGBTQ+  bills were introduced causing students to walk out in protest. 

“I think it’s really unreasonable and repugnant that things like this can even be considered as real legislation,” Epstein said. “It just shows, cruelty of nature and so many of our lawmakers, and it really bothers me.”  

“I am so sorry that you all have to take on this responsibility,” Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, said in a tweet about the protest. “ It is embarrassing that legislators have chosen to target LGBTQ+ students with this hurtful legislation.”