Aquatic Center

The Pella Aquatic Center as seen on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

PELLA — Several people spoke out against Pella City Council during an open forum regarding the swimming attire of a transgender patron at the Pella Aquatic Center.

The council had scheduled a special meeting on Tuesday with a focus on the Community Center. However, community members used the opportunity to voice displeasure to the council about a transgender male teenager and their swimming attire and use of the men's restroom at the aquatic center. The teenager wore the shirtless swimming attire typical for males that showed his female-like breasts.

The controversy gained traction in Pella after the Iowa Standard, an openly right-leaning website, made a series of posts about transgender policies both at the Pella swimming pool and at the public school district in town.

After the posts circulated around social media, citizens flooded the meeting room, with the attendance number at capacity. More than 200 people attended the meeting virtually.

The City of Pella issued a statement after being notified of the controversy.

“The City of Pella has received concerns related to the swimming attire of a patron who recently visited the Pella Aquatic Center,” the post said. “The City has reviewed the matter with legal counsel and no further action will be taken. The City considers this matter concluded.”

Many attendees demanded immediate action on the policy, saying the attire wasn’t appropriate for children visiting the aquatic center. They’ve also raised concerns on who should be able to use the men's and women’s restrooms.

Rev. Michael Shover, a pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church, said he believes the policy defies indecent exposure laws in Iowa

“It is unlawful for any person to encourage any child under 18 years of age to commit any act of delinquency,” Shover said to the council. “You're all guilty.”

Several other attendees mentioned the possibility of a lawsuit against the city if no action was taken.

One woman said the decision conflicted with the Christian origins of Pella.

“Either you're with God or you're not with God,” she said. “There is no compromise. God does not compromise, and the city works for us, the Pella people. If we're behind this, you should be behind it, and we'll stand with you.”

In response, Mayor Don DeWaard said there is a state law passed in 2007 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Just so you understand, the city council does not make laws, we have to abide by the law,” DeWaard said.

Keenan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa, attended the virtual meeting, disagreeing with the consensus among those who spoke at the meeting.

“He doesn't have the ability to turn his gender identity on and off like a light switch, but that's exactly what this group of folks is asking him to do,” they said. “That isn't fair to him, and that certainly isn't equality.”

Crow said the council made the right decision in not pursuing further action into the matter.

“The only people asking for a violation of the law are the people asking for this policy to be changed. The law is very clear, it's been in place since 2007,” Crow said. “It requires equal treatment of transgender people, plain and simple.”

The next Pella City Council meeting will be on July 6, beginning at 6 p.m.

Sarah Stortz can be reached at sstortz@oskyherald.com.

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