Speaking at a gathering of conservative activists on Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed her opposition to schools offering support to transgender students and called for a new law to restrict student access to books some conservative parents find objectionable.
The governor characterized these proposals as part of her agenda of “parental rights,” a term she has applied to everything from preempting public health authorities in order to ban local school COVID-19 precautions to creating a voucher program to send public school funds to private schools.
Reynolds made remarks at a town hall event in Des Moines organized by Moms for Liberty, a group that has strongly supported the governor’s anti-LGBTQ policies and the expanded school voucher program she recently signed into law.
Moms for Liberty is a nonprofit advocacy organization that was incorporated in Florida in December 2020. The groups first attracted national attention when members disrupted school board meetings in Florida to oppose policies that recognize LGBTQ rights, accusing school board members of being “pedophiles.”
Moms for Liberty has expanded over the last two years, and now has chapters in over 30 states. Those chapters are all aligned with Republican political leaders, from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has called members “foot soldiers” for his agenda, to Reynolds.
Multiple protesters demonstrating during Gov. Kim Reynolds speech kicking off a Moms for Liberty Town Hall at Franklin Jr High School tonight. pic.twitter.com/cHD3nRVgxr
— Robin Opsahl (@robinlopsahl) February 3, 2023
Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich spoke at the town hall at Franklin Junior High School on Thursday, praising the work of the Iowa chapter, Gov. Reynolds and Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. Descovich said more still needs to be done to “defend parental rights at all levels of government.”
“I think parents want that now, you know, everything in society is more custom made, and so education should be a little bit more accessible and custom made,” she said.
The most striking proposal by the governor on Thursday would actually limit access to certain books for the vast majority of Iowa students. Reynolds endorsed the idea of requiring signed parental permission slips before students in any Iowa school district could read any book that has been banned by any one of Iowa’s more than 300 school districts.
The governor thanked the members of Moms for Liberty for supporting her agenda ending support for transgender students, including last year’s ban on transgender girls participating girls’ sports at school, as well as her efforts to restrict open discussion of such topics as systemic racism because those topics are “divisive,” and her multi-year push for school vouchers.
“Thank you for speaking out, for your refusal to stand quietly by while we’ve seen the radical left treat our kids like their personal property,” Reynolds said. “Not on your watch. Not on my watch. Not on our watch.”
The governor was not the only Republican leader who spoke at the town hall on Thursday. Reynolds was joined by seven members of the Iowa Legislature, including Rep. Jeff Shipley.
The Fairfield Republican is probably still best known for his opposition to COVID-19 vaccines and related safety measures, as well as his June 2020 speech at the Iowa Capitol in which he claimed “the virus isn’t even killing anybody.” (At the time Shipley spoke, the official number of COVID-19 deaths in the state was 566, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. There have now been at least 10,599 deaths from the virus in Iowa.)
Shipley has been one of the most fervent supporters of anti-LGBTQ policies advanced in the Iowa Legislature. His comments during last year’s House floor debate on the bill banning transgender girls from school sports went too far for even some of this fellow Republicans. Shipley made the antiquated, disproven and actively harmful claim that transgender people are mentally ill.
At the town hall, Shipley repeated that claim to the approval of the Moms members.
“Mental illness should not be accommodated as a civil right,” he said.
There were protesters at the event, who began to shout objections while Reynolds was speaking and unfurled a transgender rights flag. Police officers removed the protesters, while Moms for Liberty members and their supporters chanted “USA, USA.”
There were plenty of cops at the Mom's for Liberty meeting making sure protestors didn't have a chance to be heard. pic.twitter.com/EqcJ3rMjpd
— Randy Richardson (@RandyOnEd) February 3, 2023
Members of the Moms for Liberty – Polk County private Facebook group joked about the prospect of protesters at the event earlier that morning.
“If they disrupt the meeting, I’ll be the first one to show them the real meaning of ‘drag’ As [sic] in drag them out the door,” one member wrote, followed by a smiling and crying-laughing emoji.