DES MOINES — An Iowa Senate committee has approved a bill to remove the requirement that state and local government boards and commissions have an equal number of men and women.
A federal judge recently ruled that Iowa’s gender balance requirement for the State Judicial Nominating Commission violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said a woman who’s a former constituents wanted to serve on the commission, but couldn’t because a man had to be appointed to meet the gender balance requirement.
“We’ve just reached the point where this is just getting silly,” Schultz said this week. “We’re seeing just mathematical gymnastics trying to match an outdated, possibly wrong-headed law in the first place.”
Senator Claire Celsi, a Democrat from Des Moines, said women have not yet reached gender parity in Iowa. “Especially in our smaller cities and towns and counties, we have a long way to go ’til we get to that gender balance that this law was supposed to help us achieve,” Celsi said.
Senator Carrie Koelker, a Republican from Dyersville, said the gender balance requirement “muffles” input on boards and commissions. “This is appalling to me that we’re even sitting here and even having this conversation,” Koelker said. “…Therdfe’s a lot of men out there’s a lot of women out there that have expertise and voices that need to be heard.”
Senator Janet Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City, said the gender balance requirement has given woman the confidence to seek leadership roles in state and local government. “Having this sitting here in law gave them the ability to say: ‘You know what? I’m as qualified as someone else. I can apply for this,’” Weiner said.
The bill cleared the Senate State Government Committee and a House subcommittee this week. Last year, Governor Reynolds said she favors getting rid of Iowa’s gender balance requirement for all state and local government boards and commissions.