A bill to prohibit transgender girls from playing women’s sports in Iowa’s K-12 schools and colleges has advanced through a Senate committee, squeaking past a Friday legislative deadline.
Senate Study Bill 3148 would allow only students who are biologically female to partake in women’s sports at Iowa public and nonpublic schools, community colleges, or public universities. It’s a step further than a proposal in the House that applied only to girls’ sports in K-12 public and nonpublic schools.
House Speaker Pat Grassley said Thursday including teams beyond K-12 schools would be “consistent” with the state’s goals. He anticipated an agreement between the House and Senate bills could be up for floor debate as early as next week.
“I spend a significant amount of time in the gym, watching 16- and 12-year-old volleyball, basketball, with my daughters,” Grassley said. “You would be amazed at how often that issue was brought up to me.”
High school athletes attended a meeting Thursday with lawmakers to debate the proposal.
A group of competitive, cisgender athletes argued the inclusion of transgender women in sports threatens their records, championships and scholarships. Several proponents pointed to championship track times for men’s events, which are generally faster than the winning time for women.
“At the end of the day, we compete with our bodies, not our self-proclaimed identities,” said Ainsley Erzen, a Carlisle High School senior. Erzen has become a face of the transgender sports debate, receiving shoutouts from Gov. Kim Reynolds on Twitter and in news conferences.
Transgender teens and LGBTQ groups argued barring transgender girls from women’s sports would be harmful and discriminatory.
Tiffany Smith spoke alongside her transgender daughter. Smith, wearing a shirt that said “PROUD MOM” under the transgender flag, said the fear that transgender women would dominate in girls’ sports was “unwarranted.”
“Transgender people are not competing to win scholarships and break records,” Smith said. “They are competing in sports to be part of a team and feel included.”
Several opponents to the legislation also raised the issue of mental health, contending that the law could exacerbate already-high rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation within the transgender community.
A Senate subcommittee passed the proposal Thursday morning, with Sens. Chris Cournoyer, Amy Sinclair and Tim Goodwin signing in favor. Hours later, the Senate Education Committee advanced the bill, marking it safe past Friday’s funnel deadline and eligible for floor debate.
“I believe this bill is about fairness, safety and preserving a competitive integrity of female sports for biological females,” Goodwin said.
Representatives for 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.
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