Iowa signs copycat ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law as part of ‘transformational education reform’

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds speaks on stage

Iowa has signed its own ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law, restricting discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation from being taught to children aged five to 12. 

On Friday (26 May), Republican governor Kim Reynolds announced that she had signed several bills into law as part of “transformational education reform”.

But despite what Reynolds claims, Senate File 496 is disturbingly similar to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. 

Under the new Iowa law, which was opposed by all Democrats but passed last month due to a Republican majority, teachers are banned from raising issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in class from kindergarten through to grade six.

School administrators must also notify parents if a student requests to have their pronouns or names used in school changed, and parents’ permission will now be required before the school can give out surveys relating to “health screenings” and mental health. 

The law also requires parents to have full access to a list of books accessible to children with instructions on how they can review them or request classroom materials to be removed. 

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‘Education is the great equaliser’

Reynolds argued that the bills, all aimed at giving parents further power over their children’s time in school, “eliminates burdensome regulations on public schools, provides flexibility to raise teacher salaries, and empowers teachers to prepare our kids for their future”. 

“Education is the great equaliser and everyone involved – parents, educators, our children – deserves an environment where they can thrive,” she said. 

Senate File 496 was passed 62 to 35, with only one Republican joining all House Democrats in opposing it.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Republicans claim the legislation is about focussing on academics and leaving sex and gender conversations to parents. But Democrats in the House argued that the bill would be stigmatising and could create unsafe environments for LGBTQ+ students.

Iowa subject to flurry of anti-LGBTQ+ bills

In March this year, Reynolds signed two repressive anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. 

The trans healthcare bill, Senate File 538, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 receiving life-saving gender-affirming care, while Senate File 482 bans trans students from using school restrooms or locker rooms that align with their gender identity. 

It isn’t the first time Iowa has attacked LGBTQ+ rights by introducing regressive laws. 

In February, Republicans proposed that marriage should be defined as between “one biological male and one biological female” – although it is unclear how the state could enforce this, given that the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in 2015.

Earlier in the month, a bill was tabled that would allow trans students to be bullied by banning students and staff from being disciplined for deadnaming someone.

Iowa’s new law follows Florida lawmakers voting to expand the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to ban discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools across all grades.

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