Governor Terry Branstad has come under fire from his old nemesis, Bob Vander Plaats, for agreeing to continue to let a LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) conference use the words “Iowa Governor’s” in the title of the event.
The Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth began under Governor Tom Vilsack and continued during Governor Chet Culver’s term. Both Vilsack and Culver openly advocated for LGBTQ issues and causes. In his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Branstad campaigned in support of traditional marriage.
In 2007, the Iowa legislature passed and Governor Culver signed into law an anti-bullying bill that specifically singled out bullying in cases of sexual orientation and gender identity. It was this law that the Iowa Supreme Count cited as rationale for its decision to overturn Iowa’s Defense of Marriage law in April of 2009.
The conference does not receive state funding, and Branstad will not address the group. However, allowing the group to continue to use the title of the governor in its name lends the group credibility and acceptance, which is why the conference is named the way it is in the first place. Branstad’s letter to the conference stating that he doesn’t object to his title being used for the conference is a quiet endorsement of the group’s mission.
In his letter to the group, Branstad stated, “I support the conference and its goal of eliminating bullying and making Iowa schools safe for all students.” The problem is that the conference only focuses on LGBTQ issues, not on bullying in general. The focus of the conference is also questionable once you examine the bullying data that is available on the group’s website from school districts across the state. It shows that most kids are bullied because of their physical appearance, not their sexual orientation.
If the conference was about stopping all bullying in Iowa high schools, every governor, Republican or Democrat, should lend their name and participate in it. The problem is that this conference does not even discuss the number one cause of bullying in our state. Instead it advances the LGBTQ agenda and promotes sexual activity by dispensing condoms to conference participants, even though approximately 50% of the conference attendees will be underage children. Many conservatives view this as an endorsement of an unhealthy lifestyle to impressionable youth.
This isn’t the only current controversy for the Branstad administration involving LGTBQ issues. Earlier this month, the Branstad administration was slapped with a sexual harassment suit by Christopher Godfrey, a workers’ compensation commissioner. Godfrey claims that Branstad cut his salary because he is gay, not because of his performance. The Branstad Administration is also appealing a Polk County District Court ruling that requires the state to list both same-sex spouses on a birth certificate when the baby is only the biological child of one of those spouses.
Branstad finds himself in an unenviable position where he is now angering his Republican base and the LGBTQ community. Branstad would have been better off disassociating himself from the LGBTQ Youth conference and instead addressing the issue of bullying at his education summit last fall or launching a state initiative that deals with all bullying, not just that stemming from one’s sexual orientation.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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