DES MOINES, Iowa – With a group of female athletes behind her, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed HF 2416, a bill that restricts girls’ and women’s athletics to biological women, on Thursday, the day after it passed in the Iowa Senate by a 31 to 17 party-line vote.
Last month, the Iowa House passed the legislation by a 55 to 39 party-line vote.
Iowa is the 11th state to pass this type of legislation, joining Idaho, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Montana, Texas and South Dakota.
“Our state has an impressive legacy of advancing women’s equality. As Iowa’s first female governor, this aspect of our state’s character fills me with gratitude and pride,” Reynolds said in the Iowa Capitol Building’s rotunda.
“I think of historic trailblazers, like the great suffragettes Carrie Chapman Catt and Mae Francis, the first woman elected to statewide office in Iowa, as well as contemporary barrier breakers like astronaut Peggy Whitson and the first female combat veteran (in the U.S. Senate) in United States Senator Joni Ernst,” she added.
Reynolds said that the history of those female trailblazers demonstrates a fundamental principle that “great things happen when women have access to the fair and equal playing field they deserve.”
“But what would it say about a commitment to this principle if we let actual playing fields — the courts, fields, rinks, pools and tracks of youth and collegiate sports — be tilted in favor of biological males with inherent physical advantages?” she asked. “Today’s bill ensures that this question will remain a hypothetical one.”
HF 2416 requires an individual’s original birth certificate to determine their biological sex. The new law, which goes into effect immediately, will be enforced among public and non-public high schools and colleges in the state that compete in girls’ and women’s sports.
“Nothing could be more straightforward and common sense. No student will be prevented from playing a sport that matches his or her biological sex or sport designated as co-ed,” Reynolds said.
She added that as a mother of three daughters and grandmother of three young girls, she was worried that a bill such as HF 2416 was even necessary.
“It’s hard to imagine how anyone who cares about the rights of women and girls could support anything less,” she said.
Recognizing the female athletes behind her, Reynolds said, “We’re joined today by a number of female athletes, each of whom has benefited from the discipline, teamwork, and fellowship that comes from participating in sports. Female athletes grow in confidence and learn the value of hard work. Yet, these young women would be the first to tell you no amount of talent, training, or effort on their part can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females. It’s simply a reality of human biology. Forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity. It’s absolutely unfair. Girl athletes would inevitably be displaced by biological boys with physical advantages.”
Ainsley Erzen, the state girls’ record holder in the 800 meters and 2021 national champion from Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa, who wrote a recent op/ed in The Des Moines Register, also spoke at the bill signing.
She said because of those who are “bold enough and brave enough” to stand up for the principles behind HF 2416 that the bill passed that current female athletes and those who follow “will be able to pursue the things they love to the best of their ability.”
“Today, we get to send a crucial message to all Iowa girls now, and all those to come in the future – a message girls today so rarely get to hear, the message that women are so much more than a hormone level, that the things girls love are worth protecting, and their hard work and dedication is recognized, and their dreams can become a reality,” Erzen added.
Before signing the bill, Reynolds reiterated the principle of the bill, “Women deserve the same opportunity as men to develop their talents and strive for excellence. The principle of equal opportunity justifies virtually all the progress women have made over the centuries from the opportunity to go to college to the opportunity to serve an elected office and so much more.”
Democrats criticized Reynolds for fast-tracking the bill.
“The decision by Governor Reynolds to sign discriminatory legislation today is appalling,” Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said in a released statement.
“Just weeks after claiming that the workforce crisis was an important issue for our state, the Governor is rushing to sign legislation that will make the crisis worse. Rather than support real solutions to the workforce crisis, she’s pouring more gasoline on the culture war fires and pitting Iowans against each other,” he said. “Because the legislation would go into effect as soon as the Governor signs it, she is showing once again that she’s more interested in scoring political points than caring about the impact of legislation on some of the most marginalized kids in our society.”
The board chair of Iowa One Action, an LGBTQ advocacy group, Angus Raymond, condemned the legislation.
“Despite overwhelming opposition, and a plethora of medical and mental health experts giving testimony to how this will cause harm, Gov. Reynolds is telling Iowa’s transgender children and youth that they are less-than, and unimportant to her state in blatant disregard for Title IX. We are profoundly disappointed in the legislature and the governor’s office,” Raymond said.
Deidre DeJear, who seeks the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds in this year’s gubernatorial election, tweeted, “To the Trans girls in our state- please know I stand with you. Today and always. Your rights are non-negotiable.”
Iowa Safe Schools, an advocacy group for LGBTQ students, said they stood in solidarity with their trans students at the Iowa Capitol.
“With the stroke of a pen, Governor Kim Reynolds has made it clear that the lives of transgender children in Iowa do not matter,” Becky Smith, the group’s executive director, said in a released statement.
Even after our trans students and their parents requested a meeting with the governor over a week ago, she ignored their pleas to have their voices heard. The passage of this bill will directly result in increased suicidality, disparate mental health outcomes, and further isolation of trans children,” she added. “Our most vulnerable children deserve love, affirmation, and support – not to be bullied by the highest officeholder in the state.”
Others praised Iowa lawmakers for passing the bill and Reynolds for signing it.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative organization that has represented female athletes in litigation challenging policies that allow biological males to compete in women’s athletics, applauded the decision.
“When the law ignores biological reality, female athletes lose medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete. Comparably fit and trained males will always have physical advantages over females—that’s the reason we have girls’ sports. We have seen increasing examples across the country of males dominating girls’ athletic competitions when competing as females, capturing championships, and shattering long-standing female records,” Christiana Holcomb, a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said.
“We commend lead sponsors Rep. Skyler Wheeler, Rep. Henry Stone, Sen. Tim Goodwin, other supporters in the Iowa Legislature, and Gov. Reynolds for protecting the ability of Iowa’s women and girls to compete on a level playing field by enacting this important legislation,” she added.
Terry Schilling, president of American Principles Project (APP), praised Iowa lawmakers.
“Protecting girls’ sports is a no-brainer. As cases such as that of Penn swimmer Lia Thomas have shown, allowing biological males to compete as females puts women and girls at an unfair disadvantage. This is backed up by both science and common sense, so it should be no surprise most Americans support keeping female athletics exclusive to females,” he said.
“However, with the integrity of girls’ sports under attack from the radical left, including the Biden administration, it has fallen to courageous state leaders like Kim Reynolds to step up and defend female athletes. APP commends Gov. Reynolds and Iowa legislators for doing their part to preserve a fair playing field for women and girls, and we strongly urge the remaining states without such protections to pass them immediately,” Schilling added.
Linda Upmeyer, the co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa and former Speaker of the Iowa House, also praised the bill’s signing.
“Republicans in the legislature and Gov. Reynolds are leading and standing up for Iowa’s female athletes. This is inherently a fairness issue. Young girls should not be discouraged from participating, or succeeding, in athletics because competition is out of their ability to compete. Wokeness does not have a role in our schools or athletics,” she said.