House passes ban on transgender athletes in girls sports at all Iowa schools, colleges

DES MOINES — Fifty-five Republicans in the Iowa House have passed a bill that forbids trans athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports at all public and private schools and colleges in Iowa. Republican Representative Skyler Wheeler of Orange City said transgender athletes who identify as female have an unfair competitive advantage in girls sports.

“Even if it’s one case, even if it’s a middle school bench slot, even if it’s a C team position in volleyball — I don’t care what it is,” Wheeler said near the end of last night’s debate. “You’re displacing a biological girl in her own division and in her own sport.”

One Republican and all the Democrats present in the House voted against the bill. Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, was one of four members of the House Black Caucus to speak against it.

“I know how it feels to be targeted,” Smith said. “I can empathize with being sought out to being discriminated against and I’ll be damned if I’ll participate in doing that to somebody else and making them feel that way.”

Representative Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Fairfield, said he objects to all school policies that encourage or condone transgender students. “I don’t believe the state of Iowa should provide liability protections to any educational institution that affirms mental illness,” Shipley said.

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights responded. “Kids who are transgender do not have a mental illness,” Konfrst said. “Kids who are transgender are kids.”

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, called the bill meanspirited. “Trans Iowans are Iowans. Transwomen are women,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Trans Iowans just want to be included and they wants to be treated fairly.”

Representative Henry Stone, a Republican from Forest City who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said critics are forgetting one side of the equation. “Our daughters and granddaughters deserve to be given a chance to compete,” Stone said, “but more importantly they deserve to compete on a level playing field.”

The Iowa Senate may debate the bill this week. Governor Kim Reynolds asked lawmakers to pass this kind of legislation nearly nine months ago.