We'll continue our fight to ensure Iowa schools are safe for LGBTQ+ students.

Shown in the photo: Plaintiffs Joe, Berry, and Brigit Stevens of West Des Moines. Credit: Lambda Legal.

In a win for Iowa students, parts of Iowa’s public school book ban and "don't say LGBTQ" law, SF 496, have been temporarily blocked.

The block will remain in place while litigation challenging the law continues. Along with Lambda Legal and Jenner & Block LLP, we filed a lawsuit in November that ultimately seeks a permanent block on SF 496.

On December 29, a federal court found that the book ban portion likely violates the First Amendment, and its “don’t say LGBTQ” portions, which ban instruction concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. 

Our lawsuit represents 8 Iowa students, ranging from 4th to 12th grades, and their families. Iowa Safe Schools, a non-profit that supports LGBTQ students, is also part of the lawsuit. Together, we’re challenging three specific portions of SF 496:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the law’s forced outing provision after ruling that the students who are part of the lawsuit could not challenge this provision because they are already out to their families.

We’re glad that our clients and Iowa students will be able to continue the school year free from much of the harm caused by this unconstitutional law.

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.

Read more.