An Iowa lawmaker has introduced a pair of bills that would insert sweeping religious exemptions into the state’s civil rights law, effectively undermining every existing protection currently enjoyed by LGBTQ residents.
Sen. Dennis Guth (R-Klemme) introduced the bills, one of which would allow individuals to cite their religious beliefs in denying housing, medical care, counseling, and employment to LGBTQ individuals.
Adoption and foster care agencies would be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples, and government workers could refuse to issue or process marriage licenses under the bill’s provisions.
Health care workers would be able to deny care or refuse to perform procedures like abortions or gender confirmation surgeries.
The bills wouldn’t just impact Iowa’s LGBTQ community, although it would bear the brunt of the discrimination allowed under the bills.
Other classes of people could potentially include single mothers, divorcees, or those who engage in premarital or extramarital sex, depending on the provider or landlord’s views on human sexuality and chastity.
The bills drop along with other anti-LGBTQ bills, including one that would ban physicians and mental health professionals from providing gender-affirming care — or even counseling — to transgender and gender-nonconforming youth; one that would gag teachers from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity in a positive or neutral way; and one that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
Another measure would create a study committee to evaluate the inclusion of transgender individuals in Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, following introduction of an earlier bill, since declared “dead” by its the chairman of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, to strip transgender protections from the law outright.
Still another bill, also introduced by Guth, would require anyone getting married to indicate their sexual orientation on a marriage license application before it could be granted. Misrepresentation or nondisclosure of one’s sexual orientation would constitute fraudulent concealment of sexual orientation, which could then be used to potentially deny an LGBTQ-identifying parent’s custody or visitation rights if the marriage is ever dissolved.
Guth told the Globe Gazette that he introduced the bill on behalf of a constituent who was involved in a marriage dissolution “where her spouse falsified his sexual orientation and then later on she was not able to reveal that when she went to court.”
All together, Iowa lawmakers have introduced 13 anti-LGBTQ measures this session, second only to Missouri, where legislators have introduced 14 anti-LGBTQ bills.
Courtney Reyes, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights group One Iowa, condemned lawmakers’ actions.
“We thought we had seen the worst anti-LGBTQ legislation we could imagine last week, but Senator Guth has proved us wrong,” Reyes said of Guth’s religious exemption bills. Allowing broad discrimination against women and LGBTQ Iowans in this way is horrific, and we will not stand for it.
This lays bare the intention of religious exemption legislation: to allow discrimination against LGBTQ Iowans and to elevate a certain set of religious beliefs above all others.
“Single mothers should be able to rent apartments, transgender Iowans should be able to get the counseling they need, and gay Iowans should be able to keep their jobs regardless of their sexual orientation,” she added. “All of this and more would be in jeopardy under Senator Guth’s bills, and we call on the Iowa Legislature to reject this blatantly discriminatory measure.”
Turning to the other bills, Reyes denounced them as equally discriminatory and vowed that LGBTQ people and their allies would fight to block the bills from becoming law.
“The relentless assault against the rights of LGBTQ Iowans continues day after day, week after week at the Iowa Legislature. While we are not surprised, we are deeply saddened and upset that legislators continue to focus on stripping protections from marginalized groups rather than ensuring that Iowans have accessible healthcare, world class educational opportunities, and high quality jobs,” Reyes said.
“We know that Iowans are going to see this legislation for what it is — extreme and divisive,” she added. “We will stand and fight this discriminatory agenda to the very end, and we will win.”
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