aroundtheregion

Iowa

The death of Leelah Alcorn has brought a broad discussion about the barriers transgender people face, including in Iowa. In the Des Moines Register’s “Transgender Iowan seeks public’s understanding,” the Register spoke with transgender Iowans about what it means to be transgender and how to build more understanding in public:

“It’s really tragic. It can be overwhelming if you are a teenager who suddenly understands yourself to be a female gender when your anatomy doesn’t match that,” said Matty Smith, One Iowa’s communications director. “We’ve seen more acceptance for gays and lesbians coming out of the closet, but there is still a lot of work to do around the transgender community. We need to have more conversations and come to more understanding so these tragedies don’t happen anymore.”

The Des Moines Register editorial board bestowed roses “each day in December as part of the spirit of Christmas.” And the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus got one at the end of the month:

“There are many religious and community leaders, activists and LGBT Iowans working for justice and equality,” Rick Miller Des Moines writes, “but none does it better than Rebecca Gruber. Please consider giving a rose to Gruber for her tireless work to promote understanding and harmony through her work with the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus. Her gentle coaxing, heartfelt repertoire and exemplary showmanship have promoted sexual orientation understanding in a non-threatening way

The head of Iowa’s LGBT advocacy group and the head of Iowa’s anti-LGBT religious right group are forging a friendship, according to the Des Moines Register.

[Donna Red Wing] decided to sit down with the person who should be her nemesis: Bob Vander Plaats. He’s president of a conservative Christian organization, the Iowa Family Leader, which has fought marriage equality and successfully campaigned to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled for it.
Red Wing had spoken briefly to him while attending his organization’s Family Leadership Summit out of curiosity. She’d found him surprisingly friendly. So she sent his office an email asking if he’d be willing to meet for coffee. He agreed.

Safe schools proponents are hopeful that an anti-bullying bill will be passed at the Capitol in 2015, according to the Sioux City Journal.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad last fall came to West High School in Sioux City and called on state legislators to move past the gridlock of the 2013-14 session and give schools more tools to fight bullying.
Chris Hall and Ron Jorgensen, two Sioux City state representatives who have worked to pass bills on bullying, said they take Branstad’s prodding as a sign there will be a bill enacted in 2015.
“That is a really good signal,” said Hall, a Democrat.
The legislation has faced a rocky road.
Bills were approved in both chambers, but not in the same form. Legislators haven’t agreed on whether to require parental notification about bullying incidents or to give administrators authority to discipline students for incidents that occur online or outside school.

South Dakota

The Brookings Police Department has a new LGBT liaison, according to KELOland:

2015 is a new year with a new challenge for Lieutenant Derrick Powers.

“I look forward to that opportunity to work with different groups in a positive way,” Powers said.

Powers was appointed as the new liaison for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community earlier this year. When the idea came to Police Chief Jeff Miller, he knew Powers was the man for the job.

“He oversees all of the cases that come into the Brookings Police Department. He does a lot of assignments with any follow up, whether it’s by the CID or other patrol staff so he seems to be the logical pick to take this position as a liaison,” Miller said.

Wisconsin
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen defended his staunch defense of the state’s laws banning same-sex marriage in an interview with Wisconsin Radio Network:

When a federal court challenge was filed last February, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen vowed to vigorously defend the ban. Even though the constitutional amendment was eventually struck down and some accused of him being on the wrong side of history, he says it was his job to stand by the measure. “I have no qualms about the job that I did, why I did it…regardless of how I may be viewed in history, I did the right thing, because the constitution needs to be defended by the attorney general,” Van Hollen said in an interview with WRN.
Van Hollen argues that any attorney general who would not have defended the state constitution should just quit, since they would not be doing their job.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the only LGBT member of the U.S. Senate, is urging the FDA to open blood donation for gay and bisexual men, according to Madison.com:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin thinks a proposal to end a federal lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and permit donations from men who haven’t had sex with another man for a year, does not go far enough.
Baldwin. the only openly gay member of the U.S. Senate, applauded an FDA proposal to change an “outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted,” but said the proposal for a one-year deferral also is problematic.
“Our goal is to replace this discriminatory, lifetime ban on blood donations by healthy gay and bisexual men with a policy based on individual risk,” the Wisconsin Democrat said in a statement.

North Dakota

Jim Shaw, writing for Forum Communications, calls on the North Dakota Legislature to ban discrimination against LGB people:

It’s time to end discrimination against gays and lesbians. Specifically, it’s time to remove state laws that allow employers to fire people because they are gay, or landlords to refuse to rent their buildings to homosexuals.

North Dakota native Jamie Kuntz is being accused of stalking 71-year old music mogul David Geffen, the Grand Forks Herald reports:

Dickinson native Jamie Kuntz, who made national headlines in 2012 when he was kicked off the North Dakota State College of Science football team after his coach learned he was gay, was the subject of numerous online gossip and entertainment news stories Monday after the website TMZ obtained court documents stating billionaire media mogul David Geffen had taken out a restraining order against Kuntz.
According to the New York Daily News, the 20-year-old Kuntz is due in Los Angeles court Wednesday on a felony stalking charge after being arrested in October for allegedly following, harassing and making a “credible threat” against the 71-year-old Geffen earlier this year. He also faces a similar misdemeanor charge, according to TMZ.

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