Restrictive transgender sports bill heads for Iowa governor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would bar transgender women from participating in high school girls’ sports and college women’s athletics, sending a draft divisive bill likely to attract legal challenges to the governor.

Iowa lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in women’s sports, sending a controversial bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor.

Last year, Gov. Kim Reynolds pressured lawmakers to pass a similar measure, but it hasn’t moved forward. The Republican governor continues to support the idea, and if she signs the bill, Iowa will join 10 other GOP-led states with such laws.

The state Senate approved the bill Wednesday 31-17, days after the House passed it by a vote of 55-39. Only Republicans supported the measure.

Opponents argue it is state-sanctioned bullying of transgender children. Supporters have argued there is a need to protect female athletes from unfair competition from men who identify as women, although there are few examples of such cases across the country.

Democratic Senator Claire Celsi of West Des Moines said the bill would create years of confusion, lawsuits and unnecessary discrimination against a protected class of individuals.

“I find this current bill not only legally risky, but petty, partisan and hateful and the reasoning fragile,” she said.

Republican Sen. Jesse Greene, of Boone, said that by passing the law, Iowa is protecting women and competitive integrity.

“We are sending a message to the nation that the people of Iowa will not put common sense aside to wake up,” he said. “In the midst of an ongoing culture war, the people of Iowa are taking bold steps to preserve the integrity and purity of athletic competition for generations to come.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Services agency told lawmakers the state could lose federal funds if authorities find it violates federal civil rights laws. The agency also said the bill could conflict with rules for participation by university, college and college sports organizations, risking loss of eligibility and media rights or competition hosting revenue. The bill can also cost state court costs.

The bill requires students participating in interscholastic sports sponsored or sanctioned by an accredited non-public school or public school district to play only with others who match the gender listed on their birth certificate. It also contains provisions allowing civil suits to enforce the intent of the law. The bill applies to sports from elementary school through state universities and colleges.

Lobbyists for school boards, school administrators and teachers said the bill puts educators and school administrators in an untenable position to follow federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in sports or the new state law.

South Dakota Governor Krisi Noem signed a similar ban in February.

Other states with similar laws include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas. All passed last year. Enforcement of a 2020 Idaho law is on hold after a federal judge ruled it would likely be found unconstitutional and a West Virginia judge last July issued an order clearing a transgender girl 11-year-old to compete in girls cross-country, saying the state law passed last year unfairly violated her constitutional rights and a federal law that guarantees equal treatment for men and women in education and sports programs.

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