Iowa Senate bill expands restrictions on transgender athletes

A bill to ban transgender girls from playing women’s sports in Iowa’s K-12 schools and colleges has gone through a Senate committee, missing a Friday legislative deadline.

Senate Study Bill 3148 would only allow biologically female students to participate in women’s sports at Iowa public and non-public schools, community colleges, or public universities. It’s a step further than a proposal to the House this only applied to girls’ sports in public and non-public K-12 schools.

House Speaker Pat Grassley said Thursday that including teams beyond K-12 schools would be “consistent” with state goals. He predicted that a deal between the House and Senate bills could be debated on the floor as early as next week.

“I spend a lot of time in the gym, watching volleyball, 16- and 12-year-old basketball with my girls,” Grassley said. “You’d be surprised how often this issue has been brought up to me.”

High school athletes attended a meeting Thursday with lawmakers to discuss the proposal.

A group of cisgender competitive athletes argued that the inclusion of transgender women in sports threatened their records, championships and scholarships. Several supporters have pointed to the championship track times for the men’s events, which are generally faster than the winning time for the women.

“At the end of the day, we compete with our bodies, not with our self-proclaimed identities,” said Ainsley Erzen, a high school student from Carlisle. Erzen has become a face of the transgender sports debate, receiving Governor Kim Reynolds’ Twitter dedications and in press conferences.

Transgender teens and LGBTQ groups argued that banning transgender girls from participating in women’s sports would be harmful and discriminatory.

Tiffany Smith spoke alongside her transgender daughter. Smith, wearing a shirt that read “PROUD MOM” under the transgender flag, said the fear of transgender women dominating women’s sports was “unwarranted”.

“Transgender people are not competing to win scholarships and break records,” Smith said. “They participate in sports competitions to be part of a team and to feel included.”

Several opponents of the legislation have also raised the issue of mental health, saying the law could exacerbate already high rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation within the transgender community.

A Senate subcommittee adopted the proposal Thursday morning, the senses. Chris Cournoyer, Amy Sinclair and Tim Goodwin signing on his behalf. Hours later, the Senate Education Committee advanced the bill, marking it safely past Friday’s funnel deadline and eligible for indoor debate.

“I believe this bill is about fairness, safety and preserving the competitive integrity of women’s sports for biological women,” Goodwin said.

Representatives from the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation. The University of Iowa declined to comment.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Managing Editor Kathie Obradovich with any questions: [email protected] Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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Norman D. Briggs