aroundtheregion

Iowa
*Capitol City Pride kicks off next week in Des Moines with the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus.

*A local Chick-fil-A franchise is donating sandwiches to Iowa City Pride’s picnic on June 19, KCRG reports:

Iowa City Pride fest this year has a surprising new sponsor: Chick-fil-A.
Adam Donius, owner of one of the restaurants in Coralville, will be donating free food to one of the Pride Fest event later this month. Donius has agreed to donate 200 sandwiches and sides for Iowa City Pride’s annual picnic on June 19.
Iowa City Pride officials said they approached Donius after some community members took issue with his restaurant sponsoring Iowa City’s Soul Fest last year.
“We offered him different ways that he could contribute and be part of our pride, help us build community,” said Jewell Amos, Iowa City Pride Chair. “He said that he totally believes in building community. So he was like, sure,”

*The owners of Gortz Haus Gallery have formed a new anti-LGBT ministry after being sued by a same-sex couple in 2013, One News Now reports:

A husband and wife are standing by their religious beliefs in spite of damage to their Iowa business for opposing same-gender “marriage.”
In 2002, Betty and Richard Odgaard remodeled an old Lutheran church in Grimes, turning it into the Gortz Haus Gallery. Their troubles began in 2013, when the couple refused to host a homosexual wedding at the gallery.
“We were sued,” Betty Odgaard recalls. “It was really ugly in the beginning, and it about took us out but we are still here, praise God.”
The Odgaards were ordered to pay $5,000 to the homosexuals and also stopped hosting weddings.
Their refusal also hurt business. Familiar faces aren’t coming by anymore.
“We got a lot of phone calls in the beginning,” Mrs. Odgaard recalls, “and they said, Heard what you did. We’ll never be back again because you’re haters and bigots. So, yes, we saw a decrease in our business immediately.”
But the couple is undeterred and now has a ministry called God’s Original Design. Their plan is to use billboards to proclaim natural marriage as God’s design.
“We have healed after a year and a half – almost two years – and God has set us on a mission,” she says.

Wisconsin
*Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is also running for president, weighed in on marriage equality at a stop in Iowa, WHBL reports:

Wisconsin’s Governor and likely presidential candidate told Iowa voters he views on gay marriage.
Scott Walker was in Boone, Iowa over the weekend making appearances for his anticipated, but not yet announced, run for president. With the Supreme Court expected to rule on gay marriage later this month, Walker told ABC’s “This Week” he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and the issue doesn’t belong at the federal level. “I believe that the decision to define marriage should be left up to the states, yeah.”

*The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on same-sex divorces in the state one-year after same-sex marriage was made legal:

Gay or straight, where there’s marriage there’s divorce.
On this early June weekend a year ago, same-sex couples by the dozens descended on the Milwaukee County Courthouse to sign marriage licenses and get hitched. They were acting quickly after a ruling by federal Judge Barbara Crabb overturned Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage.
Other counties joined in, and by the end of that first week about 500 same-sex marriages were performed across Badgerland. All of those couples who made history are invited to be guests of honor at PrideFest Milwaukee this weekend.
Our state not only began to legally recognize the love between same-sex couples last year, but also the inevitable breakups that come when love fades. Gay divorce is now legal in Wisconsin, too.
With help from court clerks, I found six same-sex divorce filings in Milwaukee County from 2014 and 2015, though there may be more. Only one of these couples was married in Wisconsin. The two women were wed in Milwaukee on Oct. 11, another busy time for same-sex marriages right after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals of Crabb’s ruling and those in four other states.
The other five cases involve couples legally married elsewhere but living here now. Two pairs were married in Iowa, one in Massachusetts, one in New York and one in Canada.

*WUWM featured a piece about Milwaukee Pride Fest which happened over the weekend:

It’s PrideFest weekend and our first anniversary of marriage equality in Wisconsin! If there was ever a reason to celebrate, this it it. I’ve been a member of Milwaukee Pride’s board of directors for a decade. Yet every year I continue to be amazed by the diversity of our community. In our struggle for equality, whether fighting against our oppressors, or even between ourselves, this is the one time of year when we are able to appreciate the vibrancy and diversity of our community. It’s so rare that we can separate ourselves from our political battles and just celebrate being LGBT.
In all modesty, PrideFest truly is the grandest celebration of LBGT culture in the Midwest and perhaps the entire country. In recent years we’ve consistently toppedwell over 30,000 visitors. Other cities may have bigger events with larger attendance but the sheer breadth of our offerings is unsurpassed.

*Milwaukee Pride Fest also took steps to make the event more inclusive by adding gender-inclusive facilities, CBS 58 reports:

But as workers finished setting up for the 28th annual PrideFest, Jessica Baker planned to look for some other signs of acceptance in places she says they’ve been lacking.
“Basically, people were made to feel uncomfortable and it got tense,” Baker said outside the grounds’ main gate Thursday morning.
PrideFest had a record year in 2014, passing 30,000 visitors for the first time ever. The opening day also coincided with a federal judge ruling Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
But Baker, who identifies as a trans woman, says people got into verbal fights during PrideFest last year over who used which bathrooms.
PrideFest policy has always allowed people to choose the restroom they prefer. But Baker says some people took exception to transgendered people making those choices.
“To have an actual incident like that at PrideFest… It’s a sad irony,” Baker said.
PrideFest organizers say no one was ever physically assaulted last year, but they were aware of the conflicts.
“The perception of safety issues is dangerous enough and why we took this quite seriously,” PrideFest communications director Michail Takach said.
This year, you’ll find the bathroom policy posted at the entry gates. The board of directors also added two gender-neutral restrooms to the one which was on site before. The board agreed to mark those restrooms with “clear, visible signage”.

North Dakota
*A debate over LGBT discrimination continues to brew in the letters to the editor page at the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Justin DePaolis-Metz from Moorhead writes:

There are real-life stories about discrimination and gay people being fired for being gay. I am one of those people. I shared that story with the North Dakota legislators two years ago, and I would love to share that story again sometime. Unfortunately, many people experiencing this discrimination cannot currently come forward because they face the risk of losing their jobs or their homes.

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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