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Iowa’s Book Ban and “Don’t Say LGBTQ” Law Temporarily Blocked

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Special to the Vanguard

Des Moines, IA – A federal district court temporarily blocked two provisions of Iowa’s SF 496—the book ban and “don’t say LGBTQ” provisions—while a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Iowa, and Jenner & Block challenging the law proceeds.

The court determined that the book ban likely violates the First Amendment. Additionally, the provision banning programs, “promotion,” and instruction concerning sexual orientation and gender identity is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

Enforcement provisions for the law were scheduled to take effect January 1. The court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the law’s forced outing provision after ruling that the individual plaintiff students could not challenge this provision because they are already out to their families.

“We are glad our clients, Iowa families, and students will be able to continue the school year free from the harms caused by these parts of this unconstitutional law,” said Nathan Maxwell, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “This decision sends a strong message to the state that efforts to ban books based on LGBTQ+ content, or target speech that sends a message of inclusion to Iowa LGBTQ+ students cannot stand. Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Iowa will continue our fight to ensure Iowa schools are safe for LGBTQ+ students.”

The ACLU of Iowa, Lambda Legal, and Jenner & Block are challenging three specific portions of SF 496, a wide-ranging law passed by the Iowa Legislature earlier in 2023 that targets LGBTQ+ students and content for erasure in schools. These provisions include:

A book ban for grades K-12 that removes all books containing descriptions of a sex act, with the explicit exception of the Bible and other religious texts. This ban has already caused school districts to remove hundreds of books from school libraries and classrooms. Many of these books contain LGBTQ+ characters and content of particular relevance to LGBTQ+ students.
A “don’t say LGBTQ” provision that forbids programs, “promotion,” curriculum, instruction and more relating to gender identity or sexual orientation” in grades K-6, effectively prohibiting any mention of gender identity or sexual orientation in those grades, and unequally applied to LGBTQ+ identities.
A “forced outing” provision that requires teachers, counselors and other staff to report a student to parents or guardians if the student asks to use a name or pronoun relating to gender identity, regardless of whether doing so would make the student unsafe.

Today’s order blocks implementation of the 1) book ban and 2) “don’t say LGBTQ” sections of the law, but it did not block 3) the forced outing provision.

The order can be found here.



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