‘Rainbow Jihad’ Behind Trans Flag Display at Iowa Capitol

Iowa last week became the first state to fly the transgender flag at its capitol for Transgender Day of Remembrance, but some right-wing lawmakers have figuratively taken it down.

“It’s another way that the rainbow jihad continues to give those of us who don’t agree with them a finger in the eye and push their beliefs on us,” state Rep. Skyler Wheeler, a Republican, told The Iowa Standard, a right-leaning political news website.

“Flags flown at our state Capitol should not be flags that fuel division among Iowans,” he added. “How would the rainbow jihad react if we were trying to fly the Christian flag over the state capitol? The rainbow jihad is not OK with simply living their lives. They are so hell-bent on pushing their beliefs on us that they would go so far as to fly that flag over the state capitol. It’s one of the most egregious acts of political aggression I’ve ever seen.”

Another Republican state representative, Dean Fisher, also brought up the matter of a Christian flag. “I guess the question is, can I fly the Christian flag over it?” he told the site. “Do I think that’s right? Well, not necessarily. Yeah, I’m solidly a Christian, but should I be flying my flag over somebody else’s instead of the Iowa flag or the United States flag?”

“It’s the same point that the atheists made with getting one of their guys to have the time for the prayer in the House chamber,” he continued. “He didn’t actually pray, he simply gave a speech, which I think was inappropriate. It’s the same thing, they’re trying to gain attention and get legitimacy.”

Both objected to not being consulted about the flag display, but Iowa Safe Schools, which asked for the flag to be flown, went through proper channels. The group, which advocates for LGBTQ-affirming schools, petitioned the Iowa Department of Administrative Services for the display, and the agency granted its request, reports another political website, Iowa Starting Line. Representatives of Iowa Safe Schools showed up at the capitol building in Des Moines with the flag at the appointed time on November 20, and the flag was raised. It flew for just three to five minutes, which is standard practice for certain special flags, but it still sent an important message, said Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools.

“Doing something like having a flag flying over the capitol is a message and a beacon to youth that we serve across the state that they are accepted, they are loved,” Monson told Iowa Starting Line. “While today we’re honoring folks, we’re also moving forward on acceptance and equality.” TDOR is held annually to honor those who’ve lost their lives to anti-trans violence.

California displayed the trans flag at its capitol later the same day, but Monson took pride in Iowa being the first. “We beat California and we’re damn proud that Iowa’s first on another civil rights triumph,” he said.

Fisher wants to keep the flag from going up again, though. He’s preparing a bill that would allow only the U.S. and Iowa flags to be flown on the official poles at the capitol. “Maybe the bill would have to get massaged a little bit, but generally I don’t think we should be flying anybody’s flag over the capitol,” he told the Standard. “I’m not sure what message that sends. As we go through that process, I’d certainly listen to what exceptions there should be. I can’t think of what they might be, if there’s a visiting foreign dignitary, would we fly their flag? I don’t know why we would, but I’ll listen to that discussion. I don’t think it ought to be any group that wants to.”


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