Iowa House sends ‘bathroom bill’ to governor’s desk

The Iowa House passed a bill requiring schools to designate public restrooms by biological sex, 57-39, on Thursday. Democrats say the bill singles out trans youth.


Grace Smith

Attendees listen to a speaker during a transgender rights protest at the Pentacrest on March 11, 2022. Over 150 attendees demonstrated.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

The “bathroom bill” that would prohibit transgender youth from using school restrooms or changing areas that correspond with their gender identity is now on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk. 

The Iowa House passed Senate File 482 on Thursday, 57-39, where all Democrats voted against the bill with five Republicans.

The bill would require schools to designate public restrooms and locker rooms based on the assigned sex listed on a student’s birth certificate. The bill does include provisions that allow accommodations for transgender youth to use single-use restrooms with parental consent. 

During opening statements on the bill, floor manager Rep. Steve Holt, a Republican from Denison, said the bill is built to protect the privacy of students. 

“For many decades, schools have separated locker rooms and bathrooms by biological sex,” Holt said on Thursday. “It’s a simple policy that has existed for good reason so that students can be safe and their privacy can be respected as they use the restroom or change their clothes in locker rooms. It is essential that schools continue to provide that safe, private space for our children.”

Holt also said the bill is for students’ safety. He said that he is aware of parents from six school districts that have expressed concerns over bathroom access for transgender students. 

Holt didn’t mention specifics but told the Des Moines Register that he had referred to a 2016 incident in Fairfield. 

According to the Des Moines Register, after the Fairfield Community School district began implementing U.S. Department of Justice guidance on bathroom use for transgender students, an increase in bullying, violence, and threats towards transgender students increased. 

No incidents of students pretending to be transgender to gain access to restrooms for malicious purposes have been confirmed by the school district, according to the Register. 

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, proposed an amendment to the bill that would allow students who don’t feel comfortable using the same facilities as transgender students to use single occupancy or unisex bathrooms. 

The amendment failed 31-61 on a motion to suspend the rules after it was ruled that the amendment wasn’t relevant to the bill. 

Wessel-Kroeschell said that during the subcommittee hearing on the bill, they heard from members of the national conservative organization Moms for Liberty about how their children would feel uncomfortable if they knew they were using the same restroom facilities as a transgender person. 

Wessel-Kroeschell pointed out that the mothers hadn’t asked if their students had ever used the same restroom as a transgender person. 

“I believe it is better to prioritize the safety of all children over the hypothetical discomfort of a few,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “I believe most Iowa students would like to welcome their fellow students to live their authentic life. A trans student is not safe in a restroom that doesn’t align with their gender. between comfort and safety, I have to fall on the side of safety.” 

Rep. Austin Baeth, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the bill targets transgender students “who are just trying to pee.” He pointed towards the invasiveness that is required to enforce this bill. 

“I don’t want my kids going to school needing to wield the birth certificate to use the bathroom,” Baeth said “These are just kids folks — kids who need to pee.”