A proposed bill would remove gender identity as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act

Bill seeks to remove gender identity as protected class

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(ABC 6 News) – A new bill making its way through Iowa’s house chamber could bring big changes to the way some members of the Hawkeye State are protected from discrimination.

If passed, H.F. 2082 would remove gender identity as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Opponents say this would allow for open discrimination of transgender people in the state, but the bill’s author, State Representative Jeff Shipley (R, he/him), says they would still be protected under the category of disability.

“The protections of it being a disability are actually some of the strongest legal protections that U.S. law has to offer,” said Shipley.

The bill defines “disability” as “the physical or mental condition of a person which constitutes a substantial disability, a diagnosis for gender dysphoria or any condition related to a gender identity disorder.”

However, civil rights groups like One Iowa say that doesn’t usually apply to transgender people.

“Disability comes with all sorts of connotations, and especially in the legal sense, it typically is a fact pattern relating to your ability to perform everyday life functions, and there’s tons of trans people for whom that’s just not true,” said Keenan Crow (they/them), Director of Policy and Advocacy at One Iowa.

Not all transgender people have a medical diagnosis, nor do they all want one.

“A lot of gender dysphoria is really based off of how you’re perceived internally, but also how others perceive you, and how your interactions go and what kind of distress that creates in your life,” said Crow. “For some trans people, they don’t have dsyphoria because they don’t experience that kind of distress.”

Still, Shipley believes this is a better way to address discrimination against transgender people, due to the conversations he’s had with them about struggles with mental health.

“People will say all these mental health outcomes in trans people are because I’m being so mean or whatever, but I think from the evidence I’ve gathered it’s kinda the opposite, that people who have mental impairments, they tend to gravitate more toward this self-identifying issue,” said Shipley.

Shipley says the bill isn’t meant to be hateful. It’s about making sure everyone’s rights are protected.

“Iowans enjoy some of the greatest legal rights in the history of all the world and nothing’s gonna change that,” said Shipley.

The bill is up for a subcommittee hearing Wednesday at noon at the Iowa State Capitol.

Members of the public on either side of the issue are welcome to attend.