JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds defended as “a fairness issue” her call for a state law that would prohibit transgender students from competing in sports with the gender with which they identify.
Advocates for transgender students and individuals’ rights called such legislation hurtful, cruel and wrong.
Reynolds, while appearing recently on Fox News Channel, said she would sign such a bill into law in Iowa. During her weekly press conference on Wednesday at Iowa PBS studios, the Republican governor said banning biological males who identify as female from participating in athletics with biological females is “an issue in fairness.”
“Do we have women’s and girls’ sports or not? I believe that,” Reynolds said.
Veronica Fowler, with the Iowa chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said proposals like these come from a misunderstanding of transgender people.
“This is really cruel and it’s wrong,” Fowler said. “We want trans kids in Iowa to hear this: you belong and you deserve better.”
There is no current bill in the Republican-majority Iowa Legislature that proposes such a ban. With this year’s legislative session nearing its end and certain deadlines passed, any proposal now would have to come from legislative leaders or be amended as policy into a budget bill.
Jack Whitver, the Republican Iowa Senate Majority Leader from Ankeny, said he is unaware of any legislative action on the topic since proposals failed earlier in the session, and that he is focused on getting state tax cuts passed before ending this year’s session.
More than 30 states have similar legislative proposals; five states ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports, according to the Washington Post.
Reynolds said a ban in Iowa would protect Iowa girls’ ability to compete and qualify for college scholarships. She said she has been speaking with Republican legislative leaders throughout the session about the possible legislation.
“Gov. Reynolds said that this wasn’t hurtful to transgender students, but she’s wrong,” Keenan Crow, with the advocacy group One Iowa, wrote in an email to the bureau. “When school officials recognize that a transgender girl is a girl during the school day, but then treat her as if she’s a boy when sports practice starts, it’s hurtful to the student and disrupts the school’s policy of treating all kids fairly.”
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, which oversees girls’ high-school sports in the state, addresses transgender athletes in its by-laws.
“The transgender student at an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union member school who identifies as a female despite having been born with male genitals, shall be allowed to fully compete as a female as long as she consistently identifies as a female at school, home, and socially,” the rule says.
Examples of biological males dominating girls’ sports are exceptionally rare across the U.S. Supporters of proposed bans sometimes point to two transgender runners in Connecticut who won track championships in 2016 and 2018.
But that is the only example supporter of bans can point to, an advocate recently told The Associated Press.
“It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B — absolutely none,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney, told The AP.
Crow noted no transgender athletes are known to have competed in the Olympics. A rare few have competed in their country’s Olympic trials.
“Not only are they not winning all the gold medals, they aren’t even qualifying. If it’s the case that transgender inclusion makes athletics unfair for cisgender women and girls, you’d think they’d have some evidence of that occurring. But they don’t. There’s no evidence whatsoever,” Crow said.