Ames Chamber Is Opposed to Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill

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Ames Chamber lobbyist Drew Kamp with Iowa State University lobbyist Kristin Failor at a January Chamber event. Photo: Ames Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

In December, the Informer reported on the inclusivity statement the Ames Chamber of Commerce adopted in January 2017 reading in part that the organization “believes in and stands for values of inclusion, equity and justice” — and, despite that, how it was still unwilling to comment on recent tweets made by Steve King, who represents the city in Congress, that echoed white nationalist rhetoric. (We also reported that prominent Chamber members have given over $25,000 to King’s campaigns in recent years.)

But while the Chamber remains silent on King, it has taken a stand against a bill introduced last week in the Iowa House that would remove legal protections for transgender residents by amending the state’s civil rights act. An example of what’s come to be known across the country as “bathroom bill” legislation, the Iowa proposal would allow businesses and schools to prevent access to “a toilet facility, locker room, living facility, or other area of a public accomodation designed for use by persons of one sex to a person of the other sex,” according to an explanation filed with the bill. Like others that have come before it (including one proposed by King on the federal level in 2016), the bill exploits unfounded fears about men dressing as women to prey on women and girls in bathrooms as a way to discriminate against the trans community.

“We are opposed to HF 2164 because we support an environment of diversity and inclusivity, as that is an environment in which both business and community interests can thrive and prosper,” said Drew Kamp, the Chamber’s director of government relations and Statehouse lobbyist.

The bill is one of three that Kamp has declared the Chamber as being for or against so far in the 2018 legislative session. The Chamber also opposes HF 2063, a bill introduced by Bettendorf Republican Gary Mohr to make modifications to the state’s urban renewal development law. The organization supports SSB 3087, a bill proposed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to invest millions of dollars into worker training programs.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.