Iowa Lawmakers Push Discriminatory Legislation at Eleventh Hour

by Nick Morrow

Lawmakers attach harmful, hidden provision to the state’s HHS funding bill that would promote state-sponsored discrimination, Gov. Reynolds should not sign this legislation into law.

Today, HRC reacted to the Republican Senate leadership in the Iowa legislature for adding discriminatory, harmful language to the state’s Health and Human Services Department funding bill, which has now been sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature. At the last possible moment, far-right lawmakers pushed to add language to the HHS funding bill that, among other concerning provisions, allows legislators to refuse state funding for critically important, often life-saving transition-related care for transgender Iowans.  

“As a native Iowan, it’s disturbing to see lawmakers in my home state trying to roll back the clock on progress and discriminating against transgender people at the eleventh legislative hour,” Said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for policy and political affairs. “These lawmakers should be focusing on ways to improve the health and wellbeing of all Iowans, not targeting transgender people to win cheap political points. Now, Gov. Kim Reynolds should reject this patently discriminatory legislative language.”

The discriminatory provisions were amended into the HHS budget without warning on Friday and in such a way that the House didn't get to vote on whether to amend the language back out of the bill. These procedural maneuvers by Senate Republicans were a deliberate and brazen attempt to quietly rollback the rights of transgender Iowans. Last month, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act protects transgender Iowans from discrimination based on gender identity, including in the provision of services via Medicaid. This legislation directly attempts to undermine that ruling.

In other states’ studies of the impact of providing transition-related care to transgender citizens under state programs, this type of care was shown to be cost-effective. 17 states and the District of Columbia offer these services as part of their Medicaid coverage and have not reported significant cost burdens.

The bill could reach the governor' office for consideration as soon as this week. The governor has the power to issue line-item vetoes in a budget package and she will have 30 days to make her decision once the bill reaches her desk.