Can Iowa's "bathroom bill" withstand court challenge?

Republicans took another step last week toward making the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session the worst ever for LGBTQ people. After letting similar bills die without committee approval as recently as 2021, the GOP fast-tracked legislation this year that prohibits transgender people from using the school restroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.

The Iowa Senate passed the latest “bathroom bill,” Senate File 482, on March 7 in a party-line vote. The Iowa House approved the bill on March 16 by 57 votes to 39, with five Republicans (Chad Ingels, Megan Jones, Brian Lohse, Phil Thompson, and Hans Wilz) joining every Democrat present in opposition.

Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill, along with legislation banning gender-affirming health care for minors. At this writing, neither bill has been forwarded to her office.

Iowa’s GOP trifecta won’t have the final word on the subject, however. Transgender plaintiffs have challenged restrictive bathroom policies in several states, and I expect one or more Iowa students to file suit soon after Senate File 482 goes into effect.

During the floor debates in the Iowa House and Senate, lawmakers pointed to key issues courts will consider as they weigh the bill’s stated goal (protecting students’ privacy) against its adverse impact on a specific group (students whose sex listed on a birth certificate does not match their gender identity).

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Cartoon: An exodus from Iowa

William R. Staplin shares another cartoon and explains his artistic choices.

The Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, Asexual (LGTBQIA+) community has lived on the margins of cis-gendered societal acceptance throughout recorded history. Mainstream societies have repressed the community in myriad ways: from self-righteous and pious condemnations and public humiliation to the destruction of careers (whether through hiring and firing discrimination or ”Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”), to brutal assaults in farmyards, playgrounds, and towns squares, all the way to targeted murders and lynching.

When the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a path for marriage equality across the country in June 2015, this brutalized community achieved a small portion of equity. Same-sex couples were able to legally wed and include their life partners for medical insurance, hospital visitation, and estate planning, providing some peace of mind for bereaved loved ones at difficult times.

But equality was in some way a mirage for members of the transgender community.

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We need serious people to solve serious problems

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring.

Lately I’ve been thinking about why Iowa GOP politicians seem committed to shouting at the rain instead of solving real problems.

I think the answer might be in a quote from the 1995 movie The American President. Fictional President Andrew Shepard says, “We’re a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

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Iowa ban on gender-affirming care would face uphill battle in court

Moving with unusual speed last week, Iowa Republican lawmakers approved Senate File 538, which broadly prohibits gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery, for Iowans under age 18.

Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill soon, having used several opportunities over the past year to position herself against transgender youth.

The new law would certainly be challenged in court, as similar bans prompted lawsuits in Arkansas and Alabama.

During hours-long debates in the Iowa Senate and House, lawmakers raised points that would be central to litigation over whether banning gender-affirming care violates the constitutional rights of transgender children, their parents, and medical professionals.

For this post, I’ve pulled video clips to illustrate some of the core legal questions surrounding the bill. But there is much more of value in the passionate speeches delivered about Republicans’ latest attempt to target LGTBQ Iowans. You can watch the full Senate debate here (starting around 7:32:30) and the House debate here (starting around 1:40:45).

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Read the messages Ron DeSantis is testing with Iowa Republicans

Although Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not formally declared his intent to run for president, he is already testing messages with Republican activists in Iowa.

A survey distributed to Iowans via text shows the governor’s team searching for points that could persuade GOP caucus-goers, not only highlighting what DeSantis has done in office—the focus of his remarks in Davenport and Des Moines on March 10— but also his military service and relative youth compared to former President Donald Trump.

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Let's stop defining and start doing

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring

Everyone probably remembers the junior high or high school bully.  The one who terrorized vulnerable kids, who dressed a little differently or didn’t say the right things. The ones who didn’t fit in. Those perceived as “other.”

Every school had a bully.

The only thing worse than a lone bully is a group of them trying to outdo each other. Then it becomes a competition to see who can punch down harder on their victims. When bullying escalates, the environment deteriorates. 

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