aroundtheregion

Iowa
The Iowa caucuses are the top news story around the region as Republicans dial up the anti-LGBT rhetoric, and Democrats tout their pro-LGBT policies.

Donald Trump campaigned with an anti-LGBT pastor last week, Right Wing Watch reported:

Donald Trump has once again joined up with Texas pastor Robert Jeffress, this time inviting Jeffress to introduce him at an event at a Christian college in Iowa over the weekend.
“It’s becoming something of a regular gig: Jeffress, you may recall, also intro’d Trump at his American Airlines Center rally in September. And when he’s not introducing Trump, Jeffress is laying hands on the man,” Robert Wilsonsky of The Dallas Morning News wrote, noting that Trump has returned the favor by lavishing praise on Jeffress…for boasting about Trump.
Jeffress insists that his appearances don’t amount to an official endorsement, but has said that Trump has the best chance of defeating a Democratic opponent and “could be a very effective president of the United States.”
The megachurch pastor also claimed that Satan is behind Roman Catholicism.
Jeffress has warned that the gay rights movement “will pave the way for that future world dictator, the Antichrist, to persecute and martyr Christians without any repercussions whatsoever,” and similarly declared that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling signaled the coming of the Last Days. He even claimed that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks represented God’s judgment for legal abortion, predicting that advances in gay rights would bring about similar forms of divine punishment.

Trump doubled down on his recent anti-LGBT rhetoric at an Iowa event on Sunday, MSNBC reports:

With one day left before the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump announced that he would “strongly consider” appointing justices to the Supreme Court who would be committed to overturning the decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
“If I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things,” Trump told ”Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “I don’t like the way they ruled. I disagree with the Supreme Court from the standpoint they should have given the state – it should be a states’ rights issue.”
When Wallace pressed Trump to clarify whether his comments meant he would try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage, Trump said, “I would strongly consider that, yes.”

Trump also lashed out at another anti-LGBT pastor that he tried to befriend but who endorsed Cruz instead, the Washington Post reports:

As an influential evangelical Iowan, Bob Vander Plaats experienced what it was like to be friends with Donald Trump. The New York billionaire invited Vander Plaats and his family to visit New York several times, refusing to allow them to pay to stay at one of his hotels and lavishing kindness.
Then Vander Plaats — president of the Family Leader, which is opposed to abortion and gay marriage — decided to endorse Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for president instead of Trump. On Tuesday, Trump skewered Vander Plaats on Twitter, calling him “phony” and “a bad guy.” The attacks came as Trump announced that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. had endorsed him.

The Daily Beast took issue with Vander Plaats saying that he isn’t staying consistent with his anti-LGBT views:

Benton isn’t the only one who says Vander Plaats is being inconsistent. Drew Ivers, a former finance chairman for the Iowa Republican Party, said Vander Plaats and Cruz share a Biblical view of marriage. But he added that Vander Plaats seems to have shifted his stance.
“He is flipping in that he’s abandoning his support of a federal marriage amendment whereas before that was his main thrust,” Ivers said.
And one Iowa conservative Evangelical activist who volunteered on Vander Plaats’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign said she was stunned that he backed Cruz.
“He’s a very strong defender of traditional marriage,” she said. “And always on the states’ rights position—he was adamantly against it, he always quoted Abraham Lincoln: ‘States don’t have the right to do wrong.’”
“It’s confusing,” she said of the Cruz endorsement.
Another longtime grassroots Evangelical activist echoed that frustration.
“It’s kind of a head-scratcher trying to figure it out,” he said. “Of all of the candidates, all of the choices out there, why would you pick Cruz of all people?”
“A lot of people I know have wondered the same thing,” he continued. “What’s this all about, is there some kind of a pre-planned strategy that we don’t know about, or something behind the scenes? It’s like he’s either completely changed his views on it or — something. I don’t really know.”
Vander Plaats’s group didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether he’s flip-flopped on the issue. But for many conservative Iowans, his comments won’t matter; Vander Plaats, viewed by outsiders as a titan of purity, has caved.

The Sun Times looks at the issues that LGBT voters in Iowa may be considering as the caucuses near.

Ted Cruz continued his anti-LGBT campaign in Iowa last week, Think Progress reported:

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz ended a seven-stop tour of Iowa on Tuesday with extended comments against marriage equality and transgender-inclusive policies, which he said represented a “time of crisis” in America.
His remarks came in response to a question from Keosauqua resident Randy DeLong, who expressed concern with the “moral decay in this country.”
“It was a sad day when I saw the Capitol building all lit up in the rainbow colors,” DeLong said, referring back to June, when the White House used a colorful light display to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. “How will your faith have a positive effect? How will you light that faith to make changes?”
As the audience in rural southeast Iowa applauded the question, Cruz nodded. “You’re absolutely right,” he said. “Our country is in a time of crisis. We’re losing who we are.”

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson campaigned for Ted Cruz in Iowa over the weekend, CNN reports:

As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battled for evangelical voters across Iowa Sunday, Cruz’s star surrogate, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, made a forceful case to voters that the Texas senator could restore the U.S. to biblical principles and called gay marriage “evil” and “wicked.”
Warming up a large crowd for Cruz in Iowa City as Trump campaigned with evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. in Council Bluffs, Robertson argued that the country’s moral core is collapsing.
The tirade against gay marriage played well in the room, but would likely raise red flags for voters who are weighing whether Cruz is the kind of GOP nominee who could attract swing voters. Robertson said Cruz was the only candidate who could restore the constitutional and biblical foundation of government.
“When a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion — redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on Iowa!” Robertson said.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, candidates continue to reinforce their commitment to LGBT issues. The Sun Times reported on democratic candidates renewing their commitment to LGBT equality at an Iowa town hall last week.

Susan Sarandon took a shot at Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop in support of Bernie Sanders, the Washington Blade reports:

Susan Sarandon slammed Hillary Clinton’s gay rights record during a Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa on Wednesday. Sarandon doesn’t think Clinton’s current stance on gay rights is enough because Clinton wasn’t on board from the beginning. “It’s one thing to be for gay rights and gay marriage once everybody else is for it. That’s not difficult,’ Sarandon told the crowd.

Iowa’s LGBT lobby, One Iowa, has been asking candidates to weigh in on LGBT issues, the group said in a press release:

As of Thursday, Jan. 28, One Iowa has compiled 17 unique responses from 12 candidates.
‘Equality matters. Religious freedom, as envisioned by our founders, matters. Our judiciary matters,’ One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing said. ‘Bird-dogging around these three profound issues allows the candidates to respond in their own voice. We found the process a refreshing change from the political spin.’
Of the three questions One Iowa posed to candidates, two focused specifically on LGBT issues. The two questions asked the candidates for their views on LGBT employment rights and religious liberty. The third question asked the candidates how they plan to address the federal judicial emergency crisis.

In other Iowa news:

Laverne Cox was slated to speak at the University of Iowa but the event has been postponed, the Press Citizen reports:

Award-winning actress and transgender advocate Laverne Cox has postponed a lecture scheduled for next month at the University of Iowa, according to a statement released Monday by the UI Lecture Committee.
“The Laverne Cox lecture on Feb. 1 sponsored by the University Lecture Committee and the Just Living Theme Semester has been canceled due to a recent scheduling conflict for Ms. Cox,” the statement read. “The University Lecture Committee and the Just Living Theme Semester is {sic} working to reschedule and will share next steps when available.”

The Des Moines Register recaps the efforts by Republicans to investigate a LGBT youth conference:

The Iowa House is conducting a bipartisan inquiry into an annual conference aimed at helping gay and lesbian youth amid allegations that some speakers at last year’s event used vulgar language and exposed students to sexually graphic presentations.
The House Government Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss complaints against the Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth. The privately run event has become a perennial lightning rod for criticism by Christian conservatives who contend it perverts the Bible and encourages young people to become engaged in dangerous behavior. Taxpayer money is involved because school buses provide transportation, and many schools pay registration fees, lawmakers say.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle say they are troubled by a letter they received from Jamie Ehlert, a social studies teacher at West Des Moines Valley High School. Ehlert describes herself as an ally of the LGBTQ community and a member of her school district’s anti-bullying committee.

The Associated Press reports on the reaction of a LGBT equality group to a pending investigation of a safe schools conference:

The head of a gay rights organization in Iowa says a legislative oversight committee is unfairly targeting his group over programming at an annual anti-bullying youth conference.
Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, says members of the House Government Oversight Committee plan to sensationalize his group’s work at a meeting Wednesday at the Capitol.
Monson helps organize a conference on resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. The conference last year had several workshops, including sessions on sexuality.
Monson received some complaints about the content, but he says he addressed them quickly. He defends the programming and says it helps provide a safe space for students.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Wilton Republican who chairs the oversight committee, defends the investigation and says some event programming was inappropriate.

One lawmaker who is targeting the LGBT youth conference is lashing out after rumors that he might be gay surfaced, the Advocate reports:

An antigay Iowa lawmaker who’s convened an investigation of an LGBT youth conference is not amused at the suggestion that he and a male colleague are lovers.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who called for the investigation because of reports that the most recent Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth exposed teenagers to sexually explicit material, said Wednesday that an email correspondent had claimed he and Rep. Greg Heartsill, whom Kaufmann appointed to investigate the conference, are romantically involved.
“I am here to announce that Rep. Heartsill and I are not in a homosexual relationship,” Kaufmann told the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee, The Des Moines Registerreports. Both legislators are Republicans with antigay records.
He objected to other responses to the investigation as well, saying, “I am getting sick of reading all the crap that is on the blogs.”

Manitoba
Winnipeg’s LGBT community has picked a theme for 2016’s Pride Festival, CBC reports:

Pride Winnipeg announced the 2016 festival’s theme — Be Authentic — on Thursday.
“It’s a message of empowerment in telling folks to be authentic, be them and not worry about social pressures that are trying to conform them into areas that’s just not them,” said Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak. “We’ve gained a lot of rights over the years, but there’s still a lot of social stigma that we would like to bring some focus to.”

South Dakota
A slew of anti-LGBT bills in South Dakota have the LGBT community concerned, KDLT reports:

Three bills making their way through the South Dakota Legislature are causing an uproar in the state’s LGBT community. Two of these bills specifically target students.
House Bill 1112 would void a high school activities association policy that allows transgender student athletes to request to play on the team of their choice. I would also prohibit the SDHSAA from adopting a transgender policy in the future.
House Bill 1008 would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex.
Those with the Center for Equality in Sioux Falls and with ACLU of South Dakota call these bills an attack on South Dakotans and the LGBT community.
“Being in high school is hard enough. Kids don’t want to be singled out. They don’t want to be put in this spotlight by their peers or teachers, let alone their state representatives,” Policy Director for ACLU of South Dakota Libby Skarin said.

The state’s House of Representatives passed an anti-transgender bill last week by a large margin, the Grand Forks Herald reported:

South Dakota’s House approved Wednesday a bill 58-10 requiring students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex.
However, the bill also calls for schools to provide “reasonable accommodations” for transgender students, including a single-occupancy bathroom or “controlled use” of a staff-designated restroom or locker room.
Republican State Rep. Fred Deutsch, a bill sponsor who represents the Brookings area, said the bill is meant to protect the privacy of students. It now goes to the state Senate.
National groups are keeping tabs on the bill. In a statement Wednesday, Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, said , “This bill creates a hostile and toxic climate in South Dakota’s education system for children who are transgender. It singles out transgender students and attacks them for being who they are by treating them differently every time they engage in an activity as simple as using the restroom or getting ready for gym class. No student’s day at school should ever be interrupted by discrimination. With this and other harmful legislation pending, South Dakota legislators seem determined to make sure the state is an unwelcoming place for LGBT people to live and work.”

The Associated Press reports that the anti-transgender bill may have a shot at passing the senate:

A bill limiting transgender students’ bathroom and locker room usage may have a better chance of passing the state Senate than efforts last year to void an activities association policy to accommodate transgender athletes, Majority Leader Corey Brown said Wednesday.
The state House approved a bill that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex, sending it over to the Senate.
Rep. Fred Deutsch said his bathroom plan is meant to protect the privacy of students while using showers, locker rooms and restrooms in public schools. The Republican said it has “nothing to do” with the activities association, which allows transgender student athletes to request playing on the team of their choice.
“I look at this as a values-based bill. Do we want our children to shower and dress in front of children of the opposite biologic sex? Is that who we are? Is that who we’re becoming?” he said.
Under the plan, schools must also provide “reasonable accommodations” for transgender students’ needs. Accommodations include a single-occupancy bathroom or the “controlled use” of a staff-designated restroom, locker room or shower room.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign, groups that oppose the measure, say South Dakota would be the first state to pass such a law.
“This bill creates a hostile and toxic climate in South Dakota’s education system for children who are transgender,” Matt McTighe, executive director of national LGBT-rights group Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “With this and other harmful legislation pending, South Dakota legislators seem determined to make sure the state is an unwelcoming place for LGBT people to live and work.”

The Argus Leader takes a look at the practical effects of the anti-transgender bill:

Thomas Lewis can’t use the boy’s bathroom at Lincoln High School.
Instead, the 18-year-old waits and drives home at lunch. It’s either that or use the girl’s bathroom, he said.
“I just don’t go to the bathroom,” said Lewis, whose biological sex is female but whose gender identity is male. “Which is also not conducive to a good learning environment.”
A bill passed by the state House of Representatives this week would force transgender teens across the state to abide by a similar rule, blocking them from the restrooms and locker rooms that fit their gender identity. Such rules run counter to federal Title IX guidelines and have led to lawsuits in other states. But the lawmaker behind the proposal feels his measure would better protect the privacy of students.
“There’s always a potential for liability,” said state Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence. “The big issue is the values that we hold dear in South Dakota.”

Wisconsin
The Music Theatre of Madison is staging a performance of La Cage aux Folles in the next few weeks, the Gazette reports:

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Music Theatre of Madison brings you La Cage aux Folles, the musical comedy about a gay nightclub owner and his flamboyant partner — who has to play straight.
“It’s a love story about two people who have been married a long time and the challenges that come with that,” says director Catie O’Donnell. “It’s a love story about parents and their children, and about families coming together. It’s romantic and it’s funny and it’s sweet.”
The cabaret production will be staged at Madison’s LGBTQ-friendly Five Nightclub, with food and drinks available.
“You don’t have to drive around town,” says the company’s founder and artistic director, Meghan Randolph. “You can do it all in one place. You can come, have dinner and drinks, see the show and then stay for dancing.”

The Badger Herald reports that Madison scored highly on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index:

The city of Madison received a nearly perfect score in an assessment of its level of LGBT quality, but lost points for not having a designated LGBT police liaison.
Every year, Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index assesses American cities’ LGBT-inclusivity on a 100-point scale. Madison scored 100 points on its assessment for 2015 after the addition of special bonus points, according to the city’s officialMEI scorecard. Madison was also ranked among the top cities for LGBT rights in 2014.

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