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About 2,000 Iowans rally to oppose anti-LGBTQ bills

More than a thousand Iowans gathered at the Capitol to protest anti-LGBTQ bills moving forward in the legislature.
Madeleine Charis King
More than a thousand Iowans gathered at the Capitol to protest anti-LGBTQ bills moving forward in the legislature.

A crowd organizers estimated at 2,000 rallied outside the Statehouse Sunday in support of LGBTQ rights and against several anti-LGBTQ bills that have been moving forward in the Iowa Legislature.

They waved rainbow flags and chanted, “Queer rights are human rights,” and “We say gay every day.”

Republican state lawmakers recently advanced bills to ban transgender youth from getting gender-affirming care and from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Other bills would require school officials to tell a student’s parents if they’re transgender and ban teaching about LGBTQ topics in elementary schools.

Ames High School student David Lee, a cofounder of Iowa WTF, said GOP lawmakers are acting out of fear and anger.

“You fear us. You fear how the world may change if you can’t control our education, our identities, and our will to fight,” Lee said. “And yes, we are angry, frustrated by your refusal to hear us when students across the state are being vulnerable with you by sharing their stories, expressing their pain, and you don’t listen to our voices, much less engage in meaningful dialogue with us.”

But Lee said those who are opposing these bills are acting out of love, and that they’ll keep fighting for LGBTQ rights.

Hiawatha City Councilperson Aime Wichtendahl is Iowa’s first openly transgender elected official. She says conservative groups like Moms for Liberty, who are pushing for these policies, are trying to redefine the word “liberty.”

“Liberty is not about banning books,” Wichtendahl said. “Liberty isn’t about being bathroom cops. Liberty isn’t putting the government between you and your doctor.”

Wichtendahl said LGBTQ Iowans just want the government to leave them alone and let them control their own bodies.

Several advocates for LGBTQ rights and Democratic leaders said they see hope in how many people came to Sunday’s rally.

“But here’s the thing, I’m still disgusted, and I’m still pissed,” said Keenan Crow, the lobbyist for One Iowa. “This is the most disgusting attack we’ve seen on LGBTQ Iowans in decades. I am floored.”

Crow asked Iowans to contact their lawmakers to express their opposition to anti-LGBTQ bills.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, urged Iowans to keep fighting against the anti-LGBTQ bills.

“They want to talk about freedom in this building. You know what freedom is? Freedom is the right to love who you want to love, to be who you want to be, to make your own decisions about your own body. We are here for freedom. We stand for freedom, and we stand for you.”

Konfrst said their resistance to these bills is working, as more than half of the anti-LGBTQ measures that were introduced this session are no longer eligible for debate after last week’s legislative deadline. One of the bills that isn’t moving forward would have banned same-sex marriage.

Copyright 2023 Iowa Public Radio. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio.

Katarina Sostaric is an Iowa City based reporter covering Eastern Iowa for Iowa Public Radio.