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House Bill Would Make Political Ideology A Protected Class In Iowa Civil Rights Act

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John Pemble
IPR file
Political ideology would be added to the Iowa Civil Rights Act as a protected class under a bill advanced by House Republicans.

Political ideology would be added to the Iowa Civil Rights Act as a protected class under a bill advanced by Republicans on an Iowa House panel Wednesday.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act bans discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas based on age, race, creed, color, sex, religion, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and national origin.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, is proposing adding “political ideology” to that list.

He said he wants to continue a discussion of “the dangers of the cancel culture.” While some believe “canceling” people is a form of social justice, many on the political right view it as censorship.

“Increasingly, the cancel culture, social media giants, big tech, and others seem determined to silence and destroy those who do not agree with their philosophy,” Holt said. “Even now, we have some political leaders and media pundits that have spoken of reprogramming or reeducating Trump supporters and others they do not agree with.”

Keenan Crow, a lobbyist for LGTBQ advocacy group One Iowa, said the ICRA is not the right vehicle for protecting political speech.

“I think there’s a lot more opportunity for unintended consequences to happen, because we’re literally prohibiting the government and the entire private sector from doing certain kinds of actions in those circumstances,” Crow said.

In a comment posted on the Iowa Legislature’s website, ACLU of Iowa lobbyist Pete McRoberts pointed out that the First Amendment already protects political speech rights.

“While the First Amendment protects all political speech and association, whether by people in power or not, ICRA is there to help people whose own political expression and power is, by definition, insufficient to protect their rights,” McRoberts wrote.

Republicans control Iowa’s executive and legislative branches, and Republican governors appointed the majority of Iowa Supreme Court justices.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act bans prohibits discrimination in employment, wages, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices.

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, voted against the bill. She also said making this change to the ICRA would not stop someone from being “canceled” on social media.

“This bill wouldn’t prevent individual people from refusing to interact with someone whose political ideology they found disgusting,” Wolfe said.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, D-Orange City, voted to advance the bill. He said lawmakers should make it clear that it’s wrong to go after someone for their political views.

“We’ve seen cancel culture really crop up around the country. It’s really disturbing,” Wheeler said. “They want to shout you down if you have the wrong views or the wrong viewpoints. We’ve seen people get censored. We’ve seen a lot of different things, and it’s almost entirely political.”

Wheeler also filed a bill this week that would ban the teaching of history lessons based on the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which is focused on the legacy of slavery in the U.S.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter