Iowa House panel approves governor’s bill defining man, woman

DES MOINES — Republicans on a House Committee have approved Governor Kim Reynolds’ bill that would put definitions of man, woman, mother and father in Iowa law and require changes in how the state issues new birth certificates to transgender residents. However, new requirements for transgender resident’s Iowa driver’s licenses were removed from the bill during committee debate.

House Education Committee chairman Skyler Wheeler of Hull asked to have the bill assigned to his committee. “The bill is simple. We’re just defining what a woman is because under today’s society I think 95% of Iowans know what it is, but we have some people that try to disorient the issue and we’re just going to get back to the basics,” Wheeler told reporters after the committee meeting. “…It’s just definitions. It’s thinks that everybody knows, but we feel like we have to put it into law because of some of the crazier things that are happening out there.”

Democrats on the House Education Committee voted against the bill. Representative Sue Cahill of Marshalltown said the bill puts transgender Iowans in danger. “To me it seems we are not protecting our transgendered,” Cahill said during committee debate. “We are not protecting those who view themselves differently.”

Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City said the bill feeds on fear. “I’m appalled that the governor would put this discriminatory piece of legislation forward targeting 0.29% of our population in Iowa,” Steckman said. “Shouldn’t we be working on something more important in education?”

After the committee vote, a couple of dozen people in a statehouse hallway booed the committee’s passage of the bill. A far larger crowd of opponents rallied and chanted outside the room where a half hour long subcommittee hearing on the bill convened at noon today.

Molly Severn, the governor’s legislative liaison, was the first to testify. “Just like the governor and legislature did with girls’ sports, this proposal protects women’s spaces and rights afforded them by Iowa law and the Constitutios,” Severn said.

Denise Bubeck of The Family Leader’s church ambassador network said Reynolds is standing up for women by “clearly defining” the term. “This bill will help us move in the right direction because without it, we are losing single sex spaces and resources,” she said, “including locker rooms, athletics and even prisons and domestic violence shelters.”

Clara Reynen, a graduate student at the University of Iowa, testified against the bill. “This bill is completely unconstitutional and worse than that it’s un-American,” Reynen said. “…My transgender friends and family deserve to live in peace.”

Stefanie Munsterman, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, said the bill sends the wrong signal to the LGBTQ community and her non-binary 18-year-old child wants to leave Iowa. “I have business leaders across the state of Iowa telling me they are having an exceedingly hard time finding employees to work,” Munsterman said. “People are leaving the state. People are afraid to come here, so we are losing our competitive advantage.”

The bill says equal does not mean same and “separate accommodations are not inherently unequal.” That would allow public facilities, like jails, to separate people based on their gender at birth. A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa predicted that part of the bill would prompt a lawsuit.