DES MOINES, Iowa – On Thursday morning, an Iowa House subcommittee advanced HF 2309, a bill that supporters say protects women’s sports and opponents claim marginalizes transgender students.
State Reps. Henry Stone, R-Forest City, and Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, sponsored the bill and participated in the subcommittee. They signed onto the bill to allow it to advance to a committee vote while State Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, declined to support the bill.
The bill states that teams, sports, or athletic events sponsored or sanctioned by an accredited nonpublic school, school district, or organization, must be designated for women or girls, men or boys, or co-ed or mixed, based on the biological sex of participating students.
The legislation says that only females, based on their sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated for females, women, or girls. However, it does not prohibit females from participating on teams, in sports, or participating in events designed for men or boys.
HF 2309 also states students have a private cause of action for “injunctive, mandamus, damages, and declaratory relief” against entities that violate the requirements in this bill, and they suffer direct or indirect harm as a result. It also provides a cause of action for accredited nonpublic schools, school districts, or organizations who suffer indirect or direct harm due to violating the requirements of this legislation.
It also provides a cause of action for students who are retaliated against for reporting a violation.
“We should not sideline girls in their own sports. Allowing males to compete in female sports will reverse 50 years of advancement for women. If we allow transgender athletes to play girls sports, that would rob girls from the opportunity to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and self-discipline, and to build a send of belonging with their own peers. This bill will protect girls sports, which is squarely our goal,” Skyler told The Iowa Torch.
Stone told The Iowa Torch that the bill does not discriminate against transgender students.
“The bill doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Boys play in boys’ sports and girls’ play in girls’ sports. We want to protect girls so they don’t have to play against biological males. It doesn’t prevent transgender students from competing. Biologically you are a male, biologically you can compete against males. If you are biologically female you can compete against girls. This is why Title IX is created,” he said.
“We really want to preserve women’s sports and give them a fair shot,” Stone added.
Iowa Safe Schools, Planned Parenthood, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, Urban Education Network of Iowa, Common Good Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Please Pass the Love, National Association of Social Workers, Iowa School Mental Health Alliance, One Iowa Action, ACLU of Iowa, Human Rights Campaign, Iowa State Education Association, and Interfaith Alliance of Iowa opposed the legislation.
Concerned Women for America, VALOR Iowa, and The FAMiLY Leader registered support for the bill.
The Iowa Torch reached out to State Rep. Mary Mascher for comment but did not hear back before publication.