JOHNSTON — Gov. Terry Branstad criticized the Obama administration Monday for using a federal “overreach” in threatening to withhold education funding to local schools that don’t allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms aligning with their gender identity.
“I think it’s really a decision of local schools,” Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference.
“Now you have the federal government stepping in and saying if you don’t do it our way, we’re going to withhold your federal money. I think that’s wrong,” he said. “We want to treat everybody with respect and dignity, but we don’t think the federal government ought to be coming in and threatening to withhold education money to local school districts in Iowa.
In Iowa, state law already protects transgender students and prohibits any educational institution from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. But the issue has flared in other states where the Obama administration is making the transgender issue a civil rights cause.
“I think there are bigger and more important issues that the president should be addressing such as protecting the security of Americans and more effectively addressing the threat to our very lives and well-being,” the six-term Republican said.
Branstad said there are many Americans upset with the country’s direction heading into next month’s primary election in Iowa, noting there are growing concerns about potential threats to U.S. military, law enforcement officers and business people “from our enemies.”
The governor said he and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds get monthly briefings that are classified “so we can’t talk about the specifics, but there are threats that exist in this state as well as around the rest of the country against people and against installations.”
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Branstad held his weekly news conference at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston to draw attention to the facility. and to highlight the importance of honoring soldiers who gave their lives or fought for the cause of freedom, during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.
The governor touted the Home Base Iowa program that has helped place more than 2,000 veterans in jobs in Iowa, while Iowa Adjutant General Timothy Orr said 24 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen died and nearly 18,000 have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Currently, Orr said, about 100 Iowa soldiers are serving on active duty overseas and “we anticipate we’ll see more mobilizations in 2016 and 2017 in support of the war.”
As part of the news conference, Major Gen. Orr was asked about the transgender issue and indicated that no accommodations currently are being made by the Iowa National Guard for transgender soldiers and airmen, and currently there has been no specific guidance or regulations from the U.S. Department of Defense regarding transgender military members.
“We know that we will probably see something in the future, but until that comes out, we have not made any accommodations in our facilities at this stage,” Orr said, adding that no Iowa National Guard member has identified as transgender “at this point in time.”
On other topics Monday, Branstad said he intends to complete work by Friday, March 27 on the fiscal 2017 state budget and other bills sent to his desk by the Legislature before its April 30 adjournment.