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Reynolds signs bill banning gender balance requirement for appointed bodies

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(The Center Square) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill Wednesday that would ban gender balance on the state’s boards and commissions.

The Pacific Legal Foundation won a lawsuit in January challenging the legality of gender balance. They sued Iowa State Court Administrator Robert Gast on behalf of former state Rep. Charles Hurley, who could not run for a seat on the State Judicial Nominating Commission because the law required the seat to be filled by a woman.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie M. Rose ruled the practice unconstitutional, prompting lawmakers to file a bill this session barring gender balance on boards.

“The bill is basically a cleanup bill,” Daniel Dew, legal policy director with the PLF, said in an interview with The Center Square. “It just goes through the existing codes and everywhere it requires gender balancing for a gender quota, it deletes that part of the law.”

Several organizations, including the Iowa Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters of Iowa and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, opposed the bill. It takes effect July 1.

“I believe that our focus should always be on appointing the most qualified people. That includes engaged citizens with a genuine interest in serving their state or local community, as well as individuals with valuable experience that directly relates to the position,” Reynolds said. “This approach ensures that boards and commissions at all levels of government are effective and that each one serves Iowans well. That’s exactly what this bill aims to accomplish.”

Iowa is not the only state that requires board quotas based on gender and race. At least 25 other states have either race or gender-based quotas for boards or commissions, according to PLF.

The history of the policies goes back more than 30 years.

“In the late 80s there was a push to have women more involved in these types of things, on board and commissions, just involved more with government generally,” Dew said. “So they passed a bunch of these laws that require gender balancing on boards and commissions.”

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill into law last year banning a racial quota on the Social Work Licensing Board.

“Our policy team is working with policy makers, our litigation team is working bringing lawsuits,” Dew said. “We are seeing changes all over the place.”

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