The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa lawmakers quickly advance Gov. Reynolds’ bill defining men, women

Democrats are pushing for further public feedback on the bill.
Jordan Barry
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds publicly endorses Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his 2024 presidential election bid at the River Center in Des Moines on Monday Nov. 6, 2023.

Iowa lawmakers quickly advanced Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’s bill to legally define “men” and “women” in Iowa law on Tuesday.

The bill faced heavy opposition from Democrats and LGBTQ+ rights advocates on Tuesday who worry about the chilling effect the bill could have on transgender Iowans.

House Study Bill 649 would define “men” and “women” in law and require birth certificates to list both pre- and post-transition sexes on the document. The bill was amended, on party lines, to remove requirements that driver’s licenses make the same delineations during consideration by the whole House Education Committee on Tuesday evening.

The bill passed out of the Iowa House Education Committee along party lines late Tuesday afternoon, 15-8, with all Democrats on the committee opposed to the bill.

Iowa Rep. Sue Steckman, D-Mason City, said the bill was discriminatory toward transgender Iowans.

“I feel like this bill is feeding on a fear of the unknown,” Steckman said. “Iowa used to be a leader in education we used to follow, we used to set the pace. We didn’t take national legislation and go out and bully other people.”

Steckman requested a public hearing on the bill and chair of the House Education Committee Iowa Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, said he would work with Steckman on the public hearing.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced the bill last week and lauded her proposal as a “women’s bill of rights” in a news release last Thursday.

Echoing Reynolds’ new release in her comments to the panel of Iowa lawmakers, Molly Severn, the governor’s legislative liaison, said the bill was a “common sense” bill that would provide protections for women at domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.

“Women and men are not identical,” Severn said. “They possess unique biological differences, that’s not controversial. It’s common sense.”

In the bill, a female is defined as, “A person whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova,” and a male as, “A person whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

The bill would also require a birth certificate that is reissued after a person receives gender-affirming surgery to list their sex at birth and sex after the operation.

The bill comes a week after dozens of Iowans spoke out against a bill that would remove gender identity as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act but was effectively killed as lawmakers declined to advance the bill to the whole judiciary committee for consideration.

Opponents of the legislation note that the language in the bill is similar to language used in segregation litigation in 1896.

The bill states that the term “equal” does not mean “same” or “identical,” and says that “separate accommodations are not inherently unequal.”

“Separate but equal is never equal,” Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund, said.

Other Iowans are worried about this legislation’s effects on transgender Iowans. Becky Tayler, the executive director of Iowa Safe Schools a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ+ students, said the law would segregate Iowans based on their assigned sex at birth in state facilities.

Tayler also said the bill’s quick movement was meant to decrease input from Iowans who oppose the bill.

Clara Reynen, a University of Iowa graduate student and Iowa City resident, said transgender Iowans should be able to live in peace and without fear of being outed by government documents.

“My wife being forced to have a different kind of identification than me is completely unthinkable,” Reynen said. “She is a better woman than I will ever be. She’s more of a woman than I will ever be. And to think that she should be treated differently because she’s transgender is unconscionable.”

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About the Contributor
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.