As states around Illinois continue to introduce anti-LGBTQ billsand in some cases, pass anti-LGBTQ resolutions into lawIowa recently added one more blow for Midwestern LGBTQ+ Americans.
Governor Kim Reynolds introduced HB 649 Feb. 1, and it is already being referred to by activists as "LGBTQ erasure." It formally defines someone's gender as their sex designated at birth, and will require trans people to have indicators on birth certificates and driver's licenses that their sex has been changed since birth. This could lead to issues such as trans people being made to use the wrong bathroom in government buildings, or even excluding trans women from the federal Violence Against Women Act.
Keenan Crow, One Iowa's director of policy and advocacy, said that, although it's always tough to predict what types of anti-LGBTQ+ bills will be introduced, this one didn't necessarily come as a surprise.
"Based on national trends, we knew something like this was coming," they said. "Did we know this exact one was coming? No, but we generally expected the model legislation to hit at some point, it's really just about which piece of [it] they're going to choose."
This "model legislation" refers to how similar this bill is to those passed in other red statesstates including Montana, Nebraska and Tennessee have already passed laws defining sex based on the sexual organs one has at birth. Those all passed within the last calendar year.
The introduction of HB 649 comes on the heels of a win for Iowa trans activists, when a bill that would remove gender identity from protected classes under law and consider "gender dysphoria" a disability fell flat Jan. 31.
In 2023, Iowa passed laws banning doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care for minors and students from using school bathrooms that match their gender. Crow said it has only gotten worse.
"Now, there's 39 pieces of ant-LGBTQ legislation in the Iowa legislature," they said. "That's a really overwhelming number; it's certainly a record for Iowa, and unfortunately we've set records every year for the past four years … it's not getting better, it's actually getting worse."
Crow said this trend has affected trans folks beyond their daily lives, and it has pushed many to either move away or start considering a moveeven people who aren't trans themselves, such as allies and healthcare workers. They said implementing bills like this and spending time and resources on them doesn't make sense as there are real problems the government could tackle, but officials choose to focus on anti-LGBTQ+ laws instead.
"The question I've asked folks is, 'How do [these anti-trans laws] materially improve your life?'" they said. "For a transgender person to be forced to have their transgender status on their driver's license, what is that going to do for the average Iowan?"