Iowa Senate passes bill that protects transgender people

Ellen Bombela

The Iowa Senate passed a bill Tuesday that adds gender identity and gender expression to the state’s hate crimes law.

The bill was passed by the Senate, which is controlled by democrats, with a 27-21 vote.

“We were really pleased to see that it passed,” said Donna Red Wing, executive director for One Iowa. “It’s just a common-sense thing. If we are protecting people on all of the other levels like race, gender and sexual orientation, then we should certainly be protecting based on gender identity and gender expression.”

One Iowa, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the state, was one of the organizations that helped gain support in order for the bill to be passed.

It helped ignite the community on the issue and rally support, Red Wing said.

“We had a petition going,” Red Wing said. “We had around 1,500 to 1,600 signatures. It was real people who cared about this, and so we submitted that.”

Some individuals from within the community find this bill to be a very positive thing, whether it passes or not.

“It’s positive development since there aren’t a whole lot of states that have those protections right now,” said Carolyn Hutchinson, graduate student in chemistry at Iowa State and the public relations and outreach coordinator for the Queer* Graduate Student Association. “I hope that this brings some positive visibility. Having this protective bill is definitely very positive for Iowa.”

Although the bill got past the Senate, it still has to get through the Republican-controlled Iowa House of Representatives, which some believe will make it tough for the bill to pass.

“I would hope that folks would put their partisan politics aside for a moment and think about those who might be vulnerable and think about those idea tactics,” Red Wing said. “All we are doing is adding gender identity and gender expression to our hate crime bill. For most people, it won’t impact them at all. For the transgender community, it sends a clear message that Iowa is a place of equality for L, G, B and T people. It’s so hard for me to think about protecting people from violence as being a partisan decision.”

Red Wing expressed that this bill is very important and necessary in order to provide protection for everybody.

“This [bill] gives our transgender members equal standings under the law,” Red Wing said. “The transgender community is already protected under the civil rights law, and so the only place they seem to still be missing is in the hate crimes, so this bill will give people equal standing, and I think that’s really important.”