Iowa State Capitol (Photo: Cburnett, via Wikimedia).
On Tuesday, the Iowa Senate voted 27-21 to pass a bill that adds gender identity and gender expression to the state’s hate crimes law. The addition of those terms to the state’s existing law provides additional protections for transgender Iowans and allows prosecutors to pursue additional prison time or penalties for those who commit crimes based on a person’s gender identity.
The bill passed largely along partisan lines, with all 26 Democrats and one Republican voting in favor of the measure. It now heads to the Republican-led House of Representatives, where it faces an uphill battle. The final deadline by which it must pass out of committee if it is to get a vote of the full House is Friday, Mar. 11. Even if the measure managed to be approved in the lower chamber, it would require Gov. Terry Branstad (R), a staunch conservative, to sign it into law, something very unlikely to happen.
Iowa already protects LGBT people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. But those protections were added in 2007, when Democrats controlled both chambers of the legislature and the governorship.
Despite the obstacles it faces in the coming days, LGBT groups celebrated the Senate’s passage of the hate crimes measure.
“The Iowa Senate again came down on the right side of history,” Donna Red Wing, the executive director of LGBT rights group One Iowa said in a statement. “For almost a year, we have spoken to Iowans about the need for the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the hate crimes law. Almost 1,500 Iowans signed our petition and today the Iowa Senate showed real leadership and a commitment to equality.”
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