Iowa Senate passes gender-identity protection

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DES MOINES — Iowa’s hate crimes law would be expanded to include gender identity and gender expression as classifications that would carry enhanced penalties for convicted perpetrators under a bill approved by the Iowa Senate on Tuesday.

“Iowa is a tough place to be transgender,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, floor manager of Senate File 2284, which passed on a 27-21 vote. Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, joined 26 majority Democrats in approving the measure now facing an uphill fight in the Iowa House to pass a committee before Friday’s second “funnel” deadline to stay active for further debate this session.

Iowa’s hate crimes statute provides penalties for offenses against a person or a person’s property because of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability. The bill would add gender expression — defined as actual or perceived gender-related characteristics — and gender identity, which means “a gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth,” according to the bill.

McCoy said Iowa has civil nondiscrimination provisions for housing, accommodation and employment that include gender identity among the protected classes but does not specify the same protection for hate-related criminal actions.

“This is protection that we need to give the people who are the most marginalized in our society,” he said.

However, Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, said Iowa’s tradition is to ensure that all residents are treated equally and protected the same way, and that is what the hate crimes statute should reflect.

“Hate crimes against anyone are wrong. This does not destroy the statute, it completes the statute. We should not be picking and choosing who is hated and who is not hated,” argued Chelgren, in promoting an amendment to broaden the language to cover all people. The amendment was defeated.

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, tried unsuccessfully to amend the measure to include “unborn status” as a protected class, offering graphic descriptions of abortion procedures before the amendment was ruled irrelevant by Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

“If anyone should receive special recognition of a special class, it ought to be for these individuals who physically cannot defend themselves,” Chapman said.

In other action Tuesday, senators voted 26-22 along party lines to approve Senate File 2204, which would require private, third-party insurers to provide coverage benefits for the diagnostic assessment and treatment of eating disorders, which McCoy said affect over 200,000 Iowans.

The Senate also voted 36-12 to allow counties to voluntarily participate in a chemical substance abuse monitoring program aimed at addressing drunken driving and substance abuse treatment.

Senators also voted 48-0 to approve a bill that would authorize first responders and emergency professionals to be able to maintain and administer drugs that would assist in the treatment of overdose victims.

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