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Iowa House committee approves civil rights protection for gays, lesbians

[JURIST] The Iowa House Human Resources Committee [official website] on Tuesday approved SF427 [text], a bill to extend the state's civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. The bill, which still awaits passage by the full Iowa House [official website], was passed by the full Senate last week [JURIST report] and would officially add gender identity and sexual orientation to the categories protected from discrimination in Iowa's civil rights code. If approved by the full House, the legislation would complement passage earlier this year of a bill to protect gay and lesbian students from harassment in schools [SF61 text]. While Democrats support the measure, some Republican representatives expressed concerns about the scope of the protections offered. They worried how it may affect workplace ethics and increase employment lawsuits by giving businesses limited deference to set their own policies. Governor Chet Culver [official profile] said he will sign the legislation if it passes.

Like many states, Iowa is struggling to refine its gay rights [JURIST news archive] laws. Over the past few months, Washington Senate has passed [JURIST report] a civil unions law, while Rhode Island and New Jersey have moved to recognize gay couple married in other states [JURIST reports]. Meanwhile, Indiana has joined a number of states in banning gay marriage and Hawaii has shelved its proposed civil unions legislation [JURIST reports]. The Waterloo, Iowa Courier has more.

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