DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Transgender students won’t be allowed to use a public school restroom in Iowa that aligns with their gender identity under a bill that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds was expected to sign into law after it got final legislative approval Thursday.
The bill received support only from Republicans, who argued it was needed to protect children who might feel uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a student whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Opponents countered that the bill was unnecessary and could lead to harassment against transgender students.
The House approved the measure 57-39, with five Republicans joining the 34 Democrats present in opposing the proposal. The vote came a week after the Senate approved the bill.
Republican Rep. Steven Holt said the bill “applies to everyone equally.” Holt said children have long used different restrooms based on biological and physiological characteristics and this tradition should continue.
“I do understand and empathize with a child that may not feel comfortable using the bathroom of their biological sex. Accommodations should be made when possible to keep that child comfortable as they change or use the restroom,” Holt said. “However, that cannot be done or should not be done at the expense of the privacy and safety of our daughters.”
Democrats responded that there was no history of transgender students bothering other students in restrooms and that a new requirement would put trans children in danger.
“All students deserve a safe school environment,” said Democratic Rep. Jennifer Konfrst. “Forcing transgender students into restrooms that don’t match their gender identity puts their safety at risk.”
The group Iowa Safe Schools, which advocates for LGBTQ students, said that since gender identity was added to the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 2007, there had been no documented incidents of transgender people acting inappropriately in restrooms.
“This bill is a solution to an imaginary problem, all for the sake of bullying trans children,” Becky Tayler, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.
Iowa is among several states with Republican leadership that have passed similar legislation.
On Wednesday, lawmakers approved such a bill in Arkansas and sent it to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee also have passed laws with similar restroom restrictions.
Reynolds, who has been supportive of measures that limit the teaching of transgender topics in schools and restrict trans girls’ participation in sports, is expected to sign the bill. Another bill approved last week that awaits the governor’s signature would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care, including puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries.