Mar 2, 2022 - News

Iowa's trans student athlete bill heads to Gov. Reynolds' desk

Illustration of a soccer ball with the patches colored in light pink and blue, similar to the transgender flag.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The fate of an Iowa bill prohibiting trans girls from competing in women's K-12 and collegiate sports that align with their gender identity is in the hands of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Driving the news: The Iowa Senate passed House File 2416 Wednesday, sending the bill to Reynolds, who suggested last month that she'd "probably sign it."

  • The move followed hourslong debate where lawmakers shared personal anecdotes about the importance of sports in children's lives β€” but differed on how that should look for trans girls.

The big picture: 2021 saw a record number of trans-related bills introduced in state legislatures. Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse.

  • Yes, but: Many medical experts and doctors fear an increase in mental health crises among transgender kids due to the dozens of bills introduced to criminalize gender-affirming care.

What they're saying: Iowa's Republican lawmakers, who were the sole supporters of the bill, argued that they're trying to retain equity in girls sports β€” claiming trans athletes have unfair athletic advantages, though no local examples were brought up.

  • Sen. Chris Cournoyer (R-LeClaire) said the bill "is about fairness." She said girls have faced adversity to get recognition in sports.

Democrats argued the bill needlessly hurts vulnerable LGBTQ youth who just want to have fun with their friends and play sports.

  • Sen. Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) said girls sports don't need "rescuing," and condemned Republicans for not doing more to help students, like properly funding schools.

Meanwhile, Becky Smith, who leads LGBTQ youth advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools, said in a statement, "These votes will be remembered as an embarrassing attempt to score cheap political points, at the expense of innocent children."

What's ahead: It remains unclear when Reynolds could make a decision.

  • If signed by the governor, the bill would immediately take effect.
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