DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she would sign a bill banning transgender students from participating in girls’ sports.
When asked about the issue at a news conference, Reynolds repeatedly called it a fairness issue.
“We want to make sure that they can compete and have the same opportunities. Is there girls’ sports or is there not girls’ sports? I have said that I believe this is a fairness issue and this is one of the ways we can address that and if the bill gets to my desk I will sign it,” she said.
A bill with similar intent died earlier this legislative session, but Reynolds said she worked with Republican leaders in the House and Senate to resurrect the measure in the final days of the legislative session. Although Reynolds has promised to sign a bill, lawmakers haven’t made any specific language public.
Opponents of such measures argue it can be devastating for children who are recognized by their school as a girl during classes but not when they want to participate in sports.
Although Reynolds argued her goal was to ensure girls are able to compete with other girls and qualify for athletic scholarships to further their education, she sidestepped a reporter’s question about whether there was a specific example of unfair competition involving a transgender student that motivated her to call for a bill. Reynolds said she has been talking with legislators about it throughout the session.
Keenan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy for OneIowa, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said he didn’t understand Reynolds’ push for such a bill.
“There just aren’t issues there. It’s a nothing burger,” Crow said. “Most transgender kids like most kids don’t even play at elite levels of sports. They just want to play everyday school sports and participate with their peers.”
The fact that Reynolds was adamant that she would sign a bill was unusual, given she almost always refuses to respond to reporter inquiries about whether she supports measures. On this issue, she appeared willing to sign whatever lawmakers approve.
Crow said the bill is one of 15 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by Iowa Republican lawmakers this year with 13 specifically focusing on transgender people and eight aimed at transgender youth.
Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors asked by The Associated Press for examples of problems involving transgender athletes could not cite a single instance in their own state or region.