News (USA)

Iowa introduces anti-transgender bathroom bill

gender neutral bathroom
Gender neutral bathroom sign. Photo: AP/Gary Broome

Iowa Republicans have introduced a bill in the House that seeks to keep transgender women out of facilities matching their gender identity.

House File 2164 would rewrite parts of the state’s civil rights law to exclude trans people from the protections it offers, in areas of public accommodations, education, employment, and housing.

“What the bill just says is that schools and businesses are allowed to take action to protect women and girls by preserving access (to toilet facilities and locker rooms) based on biological sex,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sandy Salmon, reports the Des Moines Register.

This is a common talking point among conservatives, despite evidence that excluding trans women and girls from facilities matching their gender identity is what really causes a public health risk.

“An action to refuse or deny access to a toilet facility, locker room, living facility, or other area of a public accommodation designed for use by persons of one sex to a person of the other sex,” the bill’s text reads.

It would exempt those who deny access to trans people from “administrative or legal action.”

It is supported by a dozen Republicans and the Christian organization The Family Leader.

“This is an answer in search of a problem,” said Aime Wichtendahl, a city council member in Hiawatha who is serving as the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker.

“The gender identity protection in the Civil Rights Act has been included for more than a decade. Has there been a problem of people harassing women in the bathrooms since then? No. This is simply a tactic of the extreme right who will use any excuse they can to harass and intimidate us out of public life.”

“The scenarios that some legislators have suggested perpetuate dangerous stereotypes of strangers hiding in bathrooms or jumping out of bushes, rather than addressing the underlying issue of sexual assault head-on,” Kerri True-Funk, associate director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Legislation like HF 2164 does nothing to make survivors (of sexual violence) safer.”

“What this comes down to is the far right has lost on marriage equality and on other civil rights and they are looking for ways to attack the LGBTQ community,” said Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools. “This bill is just meant to hurt, not to help Iowa’s kids, so we are going to find ways to fight this bill and support LGBTQ youth and others across the spectrum.”

The bill’s future looks murky

The bill seems unlikely to pass at this point.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Zach Nunn, a Republican, said there was limited time to advance legislation.

“We’ve got several hundred bills assigned to Judiciary, and we’re going to be looking at all of them. At this point, I don’t see that (bill) being in the top tier,” he reported candidly.

Perhaps states are taking note that such legislation is bad for business.

North Carolina lost out on countless jobs and revenue when it passed House Bill 2, a similar piece of legislation, albeit one that went ever further by nullifying all non-discrimination ordinances in the state passed by cities and municipalities. While HB2 was repealed, it was replaced by House Bill 142, keeping in place the ban on non-discrimination ordinances until 2020, unless they first go through the currently Republican controlled General Assembly.

Meaning LGBTQ people in the state are still left without protections.

Texas has attempted to pass a bathroom bill in the past, but those efforts have failed so far.

A recent set of studies conducted by The William Institute at the UCLA School of Law showed that states are potentially costing themselves billions of dollars in lost revenue by discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

Advocates are also calling on Amazon to not place its second headquarters in a state that doesn’t offer sufficient protections for the community.

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