Students protest anti-LGBTQIA+ bills during ‘We Say Gay’ walkout


Meghan Agnew

Jackie Kluesner, an English education major, holds their sign in the LGBTQIA+ walkout on March 1, 2023.

Students wearing pride flags, proudly holding signs and chanting, “Queer rights are human rights,” marched from the Memorial Union to Parks Library on Wednesday during a walkout to protest anti-LGBTQIA+ bills being passed and introduced in Iowa.

“Even though [protests] aren’t physically changing anything, it’s at least letting everyone know our opinion,” said Andrea Fager, fifth-year landscape architecture student and walkout coordinator. “We’re getting our voices out there, especially for a group that’s marginalized and doesn’t get heard very often.”

Fager worked with Pastor Jen Hibben, director of the university ministry at Collegiate Presbyterian Church, to set up this event.

“I knew it needed to happen, and since no one else was comfortable with doing it, I just took the leap,” Fager said.

The bills being protested include HF 508, which would allow same-sex marriages to go unrecognized. HF 348 is a bill prohibiting gender identity and sexual orientation from being taught in kindergarten through third grade. SSB 1145 requires school districts to notify parents and guardians if they believe their child is expressing a gender identity different from their biological sex.

These are three of the 29 bills being introduced or passed that were protested against.

Ethan Rosonke holds an Iowa State pride flag during the LGBTQIA+ walkout on March 1, 2023. (Meghan Agnew)

Sen. Herman C. Quirmbach of Story County started off the event by speaking about a 7-year-old transgender girl who spoke against a “Don’t Say Trans” bill, SF 83.

“Her letter goes on to basically say, in polite terms, ‘What the heck are you legislators doing causing so much pain? You’re supposed to solve problems; I’m not a problem,’” Quirmbach said.

During his time on the megaphone, Quirmbach was met with constant cheers and applause as he criticized this bill and showed support for gender-affirming care.

“When it comes to vaccinations and stuff like that, Republicans will tell you it should be between the parent and the child and the doctor,” Quirmbach said, “except when it comes to things they don’t like.”

After Quirmbach, the floor was open for anyone to share their thoughts.

“I’ve worked with kids that are trans before. They know what this is about. They are eight years old,” said Claire Daly, a senior majoring in criminal justice. “How dare you use that as a political game?”

Haley Roach, a junior majoring in microbiology, spoke about an openly gay teacher who made sure queer students felt comfortable talking to them.

“There was someone in real life that I knew that I could connect to, that I could talk to,” Roach said. “I want [other queer students] to have that support. I don’t want that to be taken away.”

Drag queen Ivy LaVoix, reigning Miss Gay Capital City, fears she will not be able to go out in public in drag if these bills are passed.

“They’re up to 29 bills now in the House and Senate that are anti-LGBT or anti-trans specifically,” LaVoix said. “We need numbers to show that we are here. We are not going down without a fight; the first Pride was a riot.”

Iowa Drag Queen Ivy LaVoix speaks to members of the ‘We Say Gay’ LGBTQIA+ walkout in the free speech area in front of Parks Library on Mar. 1, 2023. (Daniel Jacobi II)

Lauren Hansen, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, joined LaVoix in protest after hearing of the event from her.

“I am somebody who is in the LGBT community myself, so I really want to help support everybody that I love,” Hansen said. “We should be able to dress however we want in public and love who we love.”

Every year, Pride Alliance holds a drag show, which would be affected by SF 348, as it would prohibit drag shows hosted in public entities that are given state funds.

“They’re trying to ban drag and call it some sort of sexual inequity,” said Madison Mason, senior in women’s and gender studies and Pride Alliance president. “They’re trying to take part of queer culture away, and that is not okay.”

Opening next week, a safe space will be created in the Sloss Center called the Resource Room. This room will provide gender-affirming care including menstrual products, binders, compressive underwear, makeup and toiletries.

Mason encouraged the group to call or email their local legislators and express their concerns for the proposed bills.

“I don’t want to have to censor myself when I am teaching about child development to middle schoolers,” said Ivory Kronberg, a secondary education major. “I don’t want to censor myself at all because being gay and being trans is natural and not a choice. I’m trans, I’m normal and that is completely okay. This is exactly my wheelhouse, and I will not back down.”