DES MOINES, Iowa – On Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds explained her support for preventing transgender athletes, biological men who identify as women, from playing girls’ sports during her weekly press conference.
Last Thursday, Reynolds said she hoped to sign such a bill this session during a Fox News town hall. The Iowa House and Iowa Senate have not advanced any legislation like that.
She was asked why she signaled support for such a bill before seeing one.
“I think it’s an issue of fairness. Do we have women’s and girls’ sports or not? So I believe that,” Reynolds answered. “It’s not something I talked about in the condition of the state. But as we saw this continue to happen. I have had conversations with the leadership. We’ve looked at various languages. We want to make sure that we get it, try to get it right.”
“We’re actually taking into account where we believe that we have the authority to do that. And so, this has been an ongoing conversation I’ve had with leadership. And so when I was asked if that bill was placed on your desk, would you sign it? I said, Yes, I have because I have initiated the conversation,” she added.
Another journalist followed up, stating members of the transgender community have said bills such as these are hurtful.
“Members of the transgender community say those kinds of bills are hurtful and send a signal that they’re not accepted for who they are. And have you spoken to any members of the transgender community?” he asked.
Reynolds reiterated that her support is about fairness for girls participating in athletics.
“It doesn’t say that. But it says that it’s a fairness issue. And we want to make sure that they can compete and have the same opportunities. Is there girl sports? Or is there not girl sports? And so I have said that I believe that this is a fairness issue. And this is one of the ways that we can address that. And if a bill gets to my desk, I will sign it,” she explained.
Another reporter asked, “fairness to whom?”
“Girls,” Reynolds stated. “it is a fairness issue. We either have girls sports, or we don’t, they have the right to compete, and they should have the right to qualify for scholarships, to be able to maybe, you know, help pay for their higher education experience, and that that’s a part of the discussion. So they have a right to compete and to be entitled to scholarships, and they should be able to compete with girls.”
Iowa’s LGBTQ advocacy organizations condemned any such bill in a joint statement last week.
“Contradicting the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa High School Athletic Association, and Title IX, this effort to segregate trans students sets a dangerous precedent. According to the Trevor Project, over half of all transgender students have seriously considered suicide, with more than one in five attempting suicide. Legislative proposals like this only continue to dehumanize and bully trans youth, while also exacerbating the already high rate of suicidality, self-harm, and major depressive disorders,” Iowa Safe Schools’ Executive Director Becky Ritland said in a statement released last week after the Fox News town hall.
Terry Schilling, the president of American Principles Project, a conservative group near Washington, D.C., that has advocated such legislation applauded Reynolds’ comments.
“Gov. Reynolds is exactly right — this is simply an issue of fairness. Sports have been segregated based on sex, not identity or how someone chooses to dress. There are very real differences between males and females that matter greatly when it comes to athletics. Close to 40 states have introduced legislation to protect girls sports from these radical progressive policies from the Democratic Party. We are thrilled to see Gov. Reynolds standing firmly in the corner of female athletes in Iowa,” he told The Iowa Torch.
The status of any such bill is unknown, The Iowa Torch reached out to Iowa House and Senate Republican leadership but received no response and the session is close to drawing to a close.
Answering the question, “Should boys and men who say they identify as transgender be allowed to compete in girls’ and women’s athletics?” 74.41 percent of likely Iowa general election voters said no, with only 25.59 percent saying yes.
There is a lawsuit pending in federal court over this issue. Several female athletes have sued the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference over allowing biological males who identify as females to participate in girls’ sports.
Controversy recently erupted when two transgender athletes placed first and second in the Connecticut state track championship and set state records in the 100-yard dash in 2018, and one of those athletes won the 300-yard dash in 2018.
Connecticut is one of 16 states that allow transgender athletes to compete without restrictions, according to TransAthlete.com. Fourteen states require medical documentation.
Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and other protected classes, provides an exemption for athletics.
Iowa Code 216.9(1) reads, in part, “It is an unfair or discriminatory practice for any educational institution to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability in any program or activity. Such discriminatory practices shall include but not be limited to the following practices: a. Exclusion of a person or persons from participation in, denial of the benefits of, or subjection to discrimination in any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other program or activity except athletic programs.”
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union allows transgender athletes to participate.
Their policies and guidelines state, “The transgender student at an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union member school who identities as a female despite having been born with male genitals shall be allowed to fully compete as a female as long as she consistently identities as a female at school, home and socially.”
Iowa law allows individual school districts to decide district policy.
Thirty-four states are considering bans this year. Idaho, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas have adopted bans, with Idaho’s ban facing a challenge in federal court. The South Dakota Legislature passed a transgender athlete ban, but Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed it, stating she felt changes were necessary for the bill to survive a court challenge. The legislature and Noem failed to agree, and she issued two executive orders as a temporary measure using language that critics state is not sufficient.
Some traditionally Republican-majority states have moved to implement bans as President Joe Biden reinstated guidance first implemented under the Obama Administration’s Department of Education stating that transgender athletes must have access to girls’ sports under Title IX interpreting “gender” also to include “gender identity.” The Equality Act that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed would also require that.
“Requiring biological girls to compete with and against athletes who were born male undermines the very purpose of another antidiscrimination law, Title IX,” Jennifer Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center, said during a press call in February in response to the Biden Administration. “Unfortunately, that progress is now at risk. It is at risk from athletic associations, like Connecticut’s, that allow transgender athletes who were born male to participate in women’s sports without restriction—meaning without surgery and without hormones.”
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, said policies that the Equality Act represents would unify Americans.
“Achieving LGBTQ equality is a unifying issue for our nation,” he said in a press release in February when the Equality Act was introduced. “hundreds of Members of Congress and an unprecedented number of businesses who believe that every person should be treated equally under the law. While President Biden’s Executive Order implementing the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling was a crucial step in addressing discrimination against LGBTQ people, it’s still vital that Congress pass the Equality Act to codify the Bostock decision to ensure protection in key areas of life including where existing civil rights laws do not have protections on the basis of sex.”
Disclosure: This writer was a vendor (providing digital communications assistance and consulting) for American Principles Project from 2010 to 2020 but was not involved with the cited poll.