Iowa governor signs new law to protect women’s sports

by mcardinal

Chris Lieberman, FISM News


Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new law on Thursday banning biological males who identify as females from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

The new law requires all interscholastic athletic events to be identified as men’s, women’s, or coeducational. It then reads, “Only female students, based on their sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls.” There is no ban, however, on female participation in male sports. The law applies to public and private schools, as well as community colleges and even NCAA schools. The new rule takes effect immediately, but is expected to affect only a few students in Iowa.

Reynolds emphasized the need to protect women’s sports as she signed the bill while surrounded by young female athletes and Republican lawmakers in Iowa’s Capitol rotunda. “No amount of talent, training or effort can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females. It’s simply a reality of human biology,” Reynolds said. “Forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity and it’s absolutely unfair.”

One of the women present at the bill’s signing was Ainsley Erzen, a high school senior who holds Iowa’s 800-meter track record and has previously written an op-ed for the Des Moines Register advocating for the need to protect women’s sports. Erzen praised the new law, saying, “Iowa girls today and every generation to come will be able to pursue the things they love to the best of their abilities, whether that’s chasing titles, records, scholarships or earning a starting position on a team. No girl will be sidelined in their own sport.”

This bill’s passage makes Iowa the 11th Republican-led state to sign protection of women’s sports into law, and the second to do so this year after South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed a similar bill in February.

LGBTQ advocates and Democratic lawmakers were quick to condemn the bill, arguing that it could negatively impact the mental health of transgender athletes and claiming that transgender women do not hold a competitive advantage over biological women.

“Sidelining trans students will only contribute to social isolation and stigma that fuels bullying and mental health challenges for young trans people — issues they already face at alarmingly high rates,” said Sam Ames, the director for advocacy and government affairs of the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

The new law is also expected to face legal challenges. Becky Smith, the executive director of LGBTQ youth advocacy organization Iowa Safe Schools, said, “We think that this bill directly conflicts with both Title VII and Title IX on the federal level and this is going to open up a giant landslide of lawsuits against different school districts across the state when transgender students remember that they have a federal right to protection under the law.”

Last year, the Biden administration issued an executive order recognizing transgender athletes as covered under Title IX protections, and the Supreme Court ruled last year that transgender rights are included under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However, Republicans argue that the bill is actually in accordance with Title IX because it protects women’s rights to fair competition in women’s sports.

In July, a West Virginia judge ruled that an 11-year-old boy who identifies as a girl must be allowed to compete in girls’ cross country, saying that the state’s ban on male participation in female sports would have violated the child’s civil rights under federal law.