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Republican Says Flying Trans Flag Over Capitol Is ‘Rainbow Jihad’

Republican Says Flying Trans Flag Over Capitol Is ‘Rainbow Jihad’

If you were hungry for some word salad today, one Iowa Republican is serving an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Skyler Wheeler, a state Senator representing Iowa’s 4th district, took issue with the decision to fly the Trans Pride flag over the Capitol Building in Des Moines to mark the 20th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is held on November 20. The observance honors those who have lost their lives due to transphobic violence over the past year, as well as the continued resilience of trans, intersex, and nonbinary people. 

In an interview with the right-wing Iowa Standard, Wheeler said he was upset that no one informed him that the pink, white, and blue banner would be flying over his workplace, even going so far as to liken the demonstration to an act of terrorism.

“I found out the same time as most Iowans,” the conservative lawmaker complained. “Nothing was sent to my legislative email, no phone call, absolutely nothing. 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.

Wheeler wasn’t the only Republican triggered by Iowa’s decision to pay tribute to the nearly two dozen transgender people, most of whom were trans women of color, who were slain in 2019. His colleague in the state House of Representatives, Dean Fisher, plans to introduce legislation that would prevent the trans flag from being flown over the capitol in future years.

“I’d sure like to know the history of who else has been able to fly their flag over the Capitol, but I think it’s kind of disappointing that we’re doing it,” he said. “I’m preparing a bill to specify that… it would only be the United States and Iowa flags.”

It’s unclear when Fisher plans to introduce the legislative proposal, but to answer his implicit question: The display marks the first time in U.S. history that a trans flag was flown over a state capitol building on the Trans Day of Remembrance. According to the Iowa Standard, the banner’s presence was due to a campaign from Iowa Safe Schools and Iowa Starting Line.

While the flag reportedly flew less than five minutes, Wheeler agreed that future exhibitions of pro-trans sentiment must be stopped, calling it “one of the most egregious acts of political aggression [he’s] ever seen.”

“Flags flown at our state Capitol should not be flags that fuel division among Iowans,” he said. “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 hellbent on pushing their beliefs on us that they would go so far as to fly that flag over the state Capitol.”

Iowa made national headlines earlier this year when its governor signed legislation into law blocking Medicaid dollars from being used to fund transition-related care.

RELATED | The Trans Obituaries Project: Honoring the Trans Women of Color Lost in 2019

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