Iowa House GOP passes bill defining antisemitism

DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa House have approved a bill that denounces the rise in hate crimes against Jews and provides a definition of antisemitism.

Democrats in the House say the bill elevates one race and religion above others.

“We don’t want antisemitism, of course we don’t,” Representative Ruth Ann Gaines of Des Moines said, “but we also don’t want other groups that have been discriminated against religiously to think what they’ve experienced is a different kind of pain, a lesser pain, a pain that is not as important.”

Republican Representative Stephen Holt of Denison rose to speak, noting the bill had cleared a House committee with the support of Democrats.

“Based upon the comments that have been made tonight, all of the Republicans…and all of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who supported this legislation are ill-informed and cannot possibly understand the ramifications of this bill because some of us are the wrong skin color,” Holt said. “I categorically reject that.”

Representative Ako Abdul-Samad of Des Moines said the bill needed to be inclusive of all religions, not just one.

“If we put it all together now and we put some meat to this, we do it for one community and that’s the religious community,” Abdul-Samad said, “and that’s our Iowa family.”

Representative Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake who sponsored the bill, said pointing out one problem doesn’t minimize others.

“The reason that I offered this legislation is because data shows that although Jews only make up 2% of the American population, they are the most likely among all the minority groups to be victimized by hate,” Upmeyer said near the end of a lengthy debate.

The bill narrowly passed on a 51-45 vote. It now goes to the Senate.


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