Another GOP Governor Targets Transgender Athletes

Iowa's Kim Reynolds bars them from girls sports as a 'fairness issue'; LGBTQ activists push back
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2022 7:31 AM CST
Iowa Governor Bans Transgender Athletes From Girls Sports
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks with journalists after signing House File 2416 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday.   (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette via AP)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds calls new legislation she signed Thursday that bars transgender athletes from taking part in girls and women's sports a "fairness issue"—an assertion that LGBTQ advocates disagree with, and one that legal experts say will likely end up in court. House File 2416—which goes into effect immediately and applies to public and private K-12 schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities affiliated with the NCAA and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, per NPR—mandates that school-sponsored sporting events must be labeled as a men's, women's, or co-ed activity, and that athletes taking part in women's sports have to be marked "female" on their birth certificates. The legislation also allows for students who think their school has violated the law and caused them "direct or indirect harm" to file suit, reports the Des Moines Register.

Transgender boys aren't included in the legislation, which means they can still participate in male sports. Reynolds' staff conceded the governor didn't meet with transgender athletes before signing the legislation. "This is going to open up a giant landslide of lawsuits," says Becky Smith, who heads up Iowa Safe Schools, said to be the largest LGBTQ youth-serving organization in the Midwest. A Des Moines Public Schools rep notes that the state law may be in violation of Title IX, which "protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance." Last year, the Department of Education said transgender students fall under the umbrella of that federal law.

Reynolds says her state's law is meant to boost women's rights. "Great things happen when women have access to the fair and equal playing field they deserve," Reynolds said Thursday, per the Register. "But what would it say about a commitment to this principle if we let actual playing fields ... be tilted in favor of biological males with inherent physical advantages?" Activists on the other side are pushing back. "When the school says a girl is a girl during the day, but then under this bill will have to say she is going to be treated like a boy at 3:30 at practice, it's hurtful and detrimental to the student," Sen. Janet Petersen said Wednesday, per NPR. A Human Rights Campaign release notes nearly 160 companies in the US—including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Target, and Nike, among others—have signed a statement opposing such legislation in Iowa and 10 other states. (More transgender stories.)

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