Iowa is better than this

Deb VanderGaast is a registered nurse and child care advocate seeking to advance state and national child care and disability policy, inclusive child care practices and improve access to quality, affordable child care for working parents. She was the 2022 Democratic nominee in Iowa Senate district 41.

Acting in private on Friday before a holiday weekend, Governor Kim Reynolds signed yet another anti-LGBTQ law Republicans passed during the 2023 legislative session.

This new law forces schools to out trans students, which puts those students’ lives and mental health at risk. It also removes a requirement for health classes to teach about HPV and HIV and bans all school library books and library materials with any sexual content, except religious texts. Not graphic content. Any sexual content.

The same bill, Senate File 496, prohibits any discussion of gender and sexual orientation in grades K-6. In addition, schools would need parental approval before they could give surveys to students related to numerous topics, including mental health issues, sex and political affiliation.

With this and other bills passed this year, Iowa Republicans stoked discrimination and hate, attacked vulnerable kids, and undermined public health.

Our state is under the complete control of a party determined to battle culture war issues rather than working to make our state stronger and our lives better. With unchecked power, the majority party in the Iowa legislature and executive offices no longer have to yield to the will of the people. We are helpless to defend our children, our schools and our communities against the scourge created by the “culture war” thrust upon us.

As helpless as we feel in this moment of darkness and despair, there is still hope. Iowa has long been a swing state. The bellwether state that chose presidents, senators, members of Congress, senators, and state leaders based on our strong community values. We have been the forerunners in human rights and equality. We earned the title “Iowa nice.”

I believe that Iowa still exists. It has just been beaten down by all the turmoil created by outside special interest groups seeking to advance their own agenda and secure their power. To overcome the powerful influences controlling our state and manipulating our elected leaders, we must reconnect with our communities and restore our faith in the state we love. We must overcome complacency and despair and be willing to take part in our democracy.

Speak to your friends, families and neighbors. Help them see there is still hope, but we need them to take action. We need people to challenge misinformation. We need people to speak out against hate, discrimination and the slow destruction of our schools. Most of all, we need people to vote.

Top image: Thousands rallied outside the state capitol on March 5, 2023 in support of LGBTQ rights and against bills Republicans were moving through the legislature. Photo by Michael F. Hiatt, available via Shutterstock.

About the Author(s)

Deb VanderGaast