Iowans show up in droves to protest homophobic Republican bills

Thousands gathered at the Iowa State Capitol to protest anti-LGBTQ legislation on Sunday, March 5. Photo courtesy of Iowa Starting Line

By Nikoel Hytrek, Iowa Starting Line

Thousands gathered in front of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Sunday afternoon to push back on the discriminatory, homophobic laws moving through the Iowa Legislature.

Speakers spoke out against bills like the gender-affirming care ban, bills forcing schools to out trans or nonbinary students to their parents, bathroom restrictions, and restrictions on what schools can teach and what books they can have in their school libraries.

“We are not monsters or bad people just because of who we love,” said Jemma Bullock, an Ankeny high school student. “Whether or not you’re a bad or mean person is determined by your actions. Their [legislators’] actions are mean and bad.”

Bullock also helped found the student advocacy group Iowa WTF, which organizes around legislative actions, and helped organize statewide school walkouts last Wednesday.

“We have built this community and we will not back down,” she said. “We will make them hear our voices. We’re making it impossible for them to not listen to us.”

The rally was the latest in demonstrations against this legislation. Last Wednesday, thousands of Iowa students walked out of school in protest. Dozens of businesses in Des Moines’ East Village and West Des Moines’ Valley Junction districts have denounced actions taken by Republicans at the Statehouse. Another rally in the Capitol Rotunda is planned for this upcoming Wednesday.

Republicans have gone all-in on targeting LGBTQ Iowans’ rights. Around 30 bills were introduced to take those rights away, and 12 are still alive after the legislative deadline last week.

Last year, Republicans banned trans girls from competing in school sports on girls’ teams.

“This is a group that is at war with what America is, its people and its founding ideals,” said Aime Wichtendahl, a city councilor in Hiawatha and the first openly-trans elected official in Iowa.

“This is a group that looks at America and hates what they see because what they see are people that don’t look like them, people who don’t pray like them, people who don’t love like them,” she continued. “It is unacceptable to them that such people can be allowed to be free in this country.”

She pointed out that the Republicans only care about the liberties of some groups of people.

And Iowans are pushing back.

“Legislators need to look out their windows and see that Iowans care about queer people,” said Darcy Lentz, who grew up in Waverly and now attends Drake University. “The civil rights history of Iowa is rich and beautiful and trying to erase it is not good, to put it the least impactful way possible,”

Lentz has been to a lot of pride events and a lot of rallies at the Capitol. Their response to the crowd of thousands?

“Again, Iowans care about queer people. Iowa history is queer history. Queer history is Iowa history.”

This story is from Iowa Starting Line. It is reprinted here with permission. Read the original here.