Staff Columnist

Mean rules under Iowa's Golden Dome of Wisdom

Old Iowa Postcard of state sites. Front Image.
Old Iowa Postcard of state sites. Front Image.

Our Legislature has a mean streak. Cruel, even.

Just ask transgender Iowans. I recently wrote about a slew of bills that would stop them from playing sports, using public facilities associated with their gender identity and denying transgender youth access to gender affirming medical care. Nothing like using state power to pursue retribution against a group of our fellow Iowans.

But wait, there’s more. House File 272, sponsored by Reps. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville and Mark Cisneros, R-Muscatine, would remove “gender identity” as a protected class under Iowa’s civil rights law. This would open the door to widespread discrimination against transgender Iowans.

Why? A reader weighs in.

“Many unnatural and destructive transgender policies are being promoted by the woke liberals,” the reader wrote in an email. “Just wait until the girls’ sports leagues are dominated by transgender females. So much for title IX. I am glad my daughters are grown and do not have be subjected to such immoral nonsense. The more restraints the better. That is my view, and also of many others. I hope we prevail.”

What about transgender kids trying to grow up? I asked him what “prevail” means. Do we kick transgender Iowans out of the state, arrest them or force them into treatment?

“They get to stay in-state, but they do not get privileges that they do not merit, like participating in girls’ sports or using girls’ dressing rooms and bathrooms,” he wrote. “However, I would suggest if they want more, they should move to San Francisco. SF has a long history of supporting drag queens.”

Mean. Cruel, even. These are the views lawmakers are embracing.

It might surprise the reader to know that gender identity was added to the civil rights code in Iowa nearly 14 years ago. Not sure “woke” was even a thing back then. And, actually, it’s the wild predictions of transgender madness that are nonsense.

Remember when legal same-sex marriage was going to lead to a wave of polygamy in Iowa? Remember the last time these guys were right about anything?


As Jennifer Finney Boylan pointed out in a recent New York Times column on a national wave of state bills targeting transgender citizens, transgender athletes have been allowed in Olympic competition since 2003, but none have qualified. They’ve been playing collegiate sports for nine years.

She also wonders why lawmakers are aggressively pursuing these laws.

“Are conservative parents truly so distressed by the prospect of young people coming out as trans or nonbinary that they would deny them treatment? Is having a nonbinary child so terrible, in their eyes, that it would be better to condemn them to years of depression rather than embrace them? Is having a trans daughter actually worse, in their eyes, than having a dead son?” Finney Boylan wrote.

Also, ask low-income Iowans about the mean streak.

This past week Republicans moved legislation that would make it illegal for communities to prohibit housing discrimination based on lawful sources of income. In Marion, Iowa City and Des Moines, landlords can’t turn away renters simply because they’re using federal housing vouchers to pay rent.

In the middle of a pandemic, and after a devastating derecho, when low-income and workforce housing is in short supply, Republicans want to make it even harder for low-income Iowans to find a place to live. How does this fit with the governor’s push to expand affordable housing?

I suppose this will help landlords keep those “Chicago people” out of their rental units. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. More legalized bigotry.

We’re going on 13 years since Iowa’s minimum wage was increased. This Legislature has no interest in doing anything about it. Wage theft protections? Forget it.

Where’s the aid package for Iowans struggling through the pandemic’s economic effects? There isn’t one.

Ask women who have the audacity to want reproductive rights. This Legislature wants the state Constitution to say they have no such rights. This after Republicans made it far tougher to get contraceptives and other family planning services, resulting in more abortions.


A lot of minimum and low-wage workers are women heads of household. Economic struggles are often a factor in abortions. This is what “pro-life” policy looks like in Iowa. Mean, and ineffective.

Schools are being required to offer 100 percent in-person classes before scores of teachers and staff get vaccines. That seems backward.

Ask Black Iowans. Instead of building on last year’s bipartisan police reform effort, the governor is proposing a heavy-handed “Back the Blue” bill that creates tougher penalties for crimes against officers, using laser pointers and rioting. A new crime would be called “bias-motivated harassment” of an officer. And cities that cut police funding could lose state funds.

So instead of keeping faith with Black Iowans fighting racism in our justice system, the bill targets protesters, threatens to make racial disparities worse and creates new flashpoints. We should have known last June’s sunny Statehouse bill-signing was a mirage.

Ask Iowans working in the Statehouse, where masks aren’t required and several COVID-19 cases already have been reported in the session’s opening weeks. GOP leaders have so little regard for staff and colleagues they’re unwilling to enact the most basic workplace safety measures.

Meatpacking workers are like, “Yeah, we know exactly what you mean, about mean.”

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