Staff Columnist

California casts sunshine on Iowa's shameful Legislature

Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.
Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.

Iowa needs to open some fake real estate offices in California, fast.

Maybe you recall earlier this year when Iowa development boosters opened a fake real estate office in New York City, luring New Yorkers inside to hear about how wonderful and affordable Iowa is. The “This is Iowa” campaign sought to convince harried dwellers of our crowded coasts to give Iowa a try. We’re craft boozing, bike cruising and oh so openly inclusive, our sales pitchers insist.

The West Coast, however, is calling B.S. And it’s not brilliant salesmanship.

Late last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Iowa to a list of 11 states where public employees and others are banned from traveling on the public dime. He did so under a state law that bans taxpayer-financed travel from California to states that repeal or rescind civil rights protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That’s exactly what Republicans who run the Iowa Legislature did this spring. They shoved through a provision during the final hours of the 2019 session making it legally permissible for the state’s Medicaid program and other government-supported health insurance plans to deny coverage of gender transition surgery and related care for transgender Iowans.

Iowa’s civil rights code has shielded transgender Iowans from discrimination since 2007. In March, the Iowa Supreme Court pointed to that clear prohibition of discrimination as it ruled Medicaid could not deny coverage to transgender Iowans for the care they need.

But the GOP legislature trumped the court by carving out an exemption in the civil rights code, and Gov. Kim Reynolds swiftly signed it into law, ignoring pleas from those affected.

So now we’re banned by California, as of Oct. 4.

As policy, travel bans are blunt and dumb instruments. Why cut off or curtail state university cooperation, for instance, between people who have nothing to do with spiteful policy perpetrated under our Golden Dome of Wisdom?

So there’s dumb. But then there’s hateful.

How else could you characterize what Republicans perpetrated against transgender Iowans?

Republicans abruptly launched their provision allowing a denial of coverage for transgender care on the afternoon of Friday, April 26. The Senate passed it the same day, as an amendment to a massive human services budget bill. The House took it up the next morning and approved it midday Saturday, April 27, after suspending its rules and cutting off debate. Unrelated changes sent the bill back to the Senate, which approved it again around 2 p.m.

At just before 2:30 p.m., the Legislature adjourned for the year.

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It took them barely 24 hours to trash a hard-fought civil rights victory. There were no hearings or chances for the public to weigh in. There was no nonpartisan analysis of its implications and impact. There was only a GOP legislative bulldozer once again rolling over a group of Iowans.

Republicans took a shield of protection offered by our civil rights code and twisted it into a weapon to attack transgender Iowans. Their action affects not only Iowans on Medicaid, but every public employee and family in this state covered by government-funded health benefits.

So, yes, “This is Iowa,” all right, a state with a slick sales pitch of inclusion and a Statehouse taking its orders from culture warriors dragging us back into the shadows of bigotry. Affordable homes! Atrocious governing.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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