DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House Education Committee passed HF 2309, a bill restricting girls’ sports to biological females, on Monday evening by a 14 to 7 party-line vote.
“House File 2309 comes to us today by Iowans who are concerned that women’s sports may be under threat here in the state and also nationwide,” State Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, who was a sponsor and manager of the bill, said.
Supporters of the bill say they are concerned by biological boys identifying as transgender girls participating in girls’ sports. Opponents say the bill discriminates against transgender Iowans.
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 in teams, sports, or 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.
State Rep. Mary Mascher, R-Iowa City, spoke out against the bill, saying she promised her constituents that she would never vote for a bill that discriminates against or harms a group of people.
“House File 2309 harms children. It clearly clearly discriminates against children on the basis of their sex. This bill creates a barrier for a small small group of children who are already marginalized by society. But here’s the thing. If we harm one, we harm all. No child should face state sanctioned bullying. No child in this state should be discriminated against based on their sex or gender,” she said.
“There has been no documented case in Iowa, where a transgender girl playing a girl sports has caused any problem. You can’t give me one there’s been none. There has never been a complaint raised about a transgendered student participating in school athletics in Iowa. There are not examples of unfairness or anyone attempting to game the system that’s insulting, and especially to children. Again, who are already marginalized,” Mascher argued.
Wheeler later countered that transgender girls playing girls’ sports have been a problem in the state.
“There are issues I’m aware of a half a dozen right now in the state of Iowa, including one in my district, where this has been an issue. There’s legal guidance that is out there right now to the school boards that basically ties their hands to take action,” he said.
“One of the cases that we have literal documentation on is an Iowa City, there is a biological male that is swimming against biological females there,” Wheeler added. “And the reason behind that, as he stated in the media was because he wants to be able to be more competitive. And so he goes, and he swims against the females. So this is an issue in Iowa.”
He also pointed to Connecticut as an example he did not want Iowa to follow.
“Do we want to be the state, like Connecticut, where we have a female, a biological female who’s trained her whole life to run and track, and then there’s two biological males that have been running with the males and track decided that they’re going to become female to compete against female and take all their state championships?” he asked.
Wheeler pointed out that in one year, those biological boys identifying as transgender girls broke ten girls’ track state records held by ten different girls over a span of 30 years.
“Do we want to be the state that allows that to happen?” he asked again.
Mascher asked Wheeler whether that had happened in Iowa.
“So are we going to wait until that happens?” he asked.
“I don’t think we need to. I think we protect those individuals. Because we know you cannot discriminate on the basis of gender or sex,” Mascher replied.
“I am not for putting a girl at risk of losing a scholarship or a varsity slot or a state title simply because we have have members in this body that think that this is, for some reason, discriminatory. It does not ban anybody from playing sports, you can play sports, no matter what,” Wheeler counted.
The entire Iowa House of Representatives can now consider the bill.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds was asked about the bill. She pointed to a recent op/ed written by Ainsley Erzen in The Des Moines Register pointed out the 800-meter time that made her a national champion was bested by 85 boys at the boys’ state track meet alone.
“Girls have dreams and aspirations of earning a scholarship to help pay for college. Girls have dreams and aspirations of one day competing in the Olympics. It’s a fairness issue. We’ll wait to see what the bill looks like. I’m not going to say yes or no until it lands on my desk. But I’m telling you, I said this last year, this will do away with girls’ sports. And it’s just not fair,” she said.