Around the Region: Home of openly gay Iowa candidate vandalized with anti-LGBTQ messages



Vandals struck the home of a gay candidate for county board, CBS2 reports:

An openly gay candidate running for a spot on the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors is calling vandalism to his house a hate crime.
Candidate Christopher Schwartz says anti-gay messages were spray painted onto his home and campaign signs on his lawn.

“Lev 20:13” was also spray painted on his door, a bible passage that reads “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Schwartz says the vandalism occurred amid a heated social media argument involving Cedar Valley Patriots, a local group that criticized Schwartz for organizing an annual gay-rights event in Waterloo.
“Our campaign is a campaign about love, and acceptance and doing the most good for the most amount of people. We are shaken by this hate crime and death threat and condemn all individuals associated with the hateful rhetoric of Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ we feel incited this attack, including our Republican opponents who have been endorsed by the organization and accepted donations from its leadership,”said Schwartz.
Judd Saul, the leader of the group says that the group isn’t responsible.

Schwartz spoke with the Des Moines Register about the vandalism:

A candidate for Black Hawk County supervisor who would be the first openly gay man to serve in that position woke up Thursday morning to find homophobic slurs spray painted on his home and in his yard.
The vandal or vandals used black spray paint to write “fag” on Chris Schwartz’s campaign sign and “Lev 20:13” on his front door. Other campaign signs promoting Democratic candidates had black lines crossing out their names.
Schwartz, of Waterloo, shares the home with his boyfriend and campaign manager Logun Buckley.
“It struck some fear into me. Especially the word ‘fag.’ It’s such a hateful word, and something I experienced all throughout my childhood,” Schwartz, 36, said. “The Leviticus reference outside my front door, that’s a death threat to us.”

Three Iowa Supreme Court judges are up for election and the religious right is trying to get them voted out because they voted in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. A progressive religious groups is advocating on their behalf, Radio Iowa reports:

Members of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa gathered on the steps of the Iowa Judicial Building today to urge support for the retention of three state supreme court judges on the bench now who were involved in the 2009 decision which overturned Iowa’s law banning gay marriage.
Alliance executive director, Connie Ryan, says other faith groups are wrongly using religion in an effort to vote out the judges.
“Iowa’s courts faced attacks from religious extremists in 2010 and 2012 and now they are back once again, seeking revenge against three respected supreme court justices, inserting politics into what is designed to be a nonpartisan retention election,” Ryan says.
Three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the 2009 decision were voted off the bench in the 2010 retention election. Reverend David Sickelka was one of four other religious leaders to speak. He says those who want to see the judges voted out this time are using the same arguments used after the 2009 decision.

In a story of the Des Moines Register, two judges who were voted off the bench following the marriage decision are concerned about the politicization of the bench:

Kids growing up in the U.S. today aren’t likely to remember a time when marriage between two people of the same sex wasn’t legal.
But that certainly wasn’t the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Iowa’s limitation of marriage to opposite sex couples violated the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution.
The year after Varnum v. Brien, Chief Justice Marsha K. Ternus and justices Michael J. Streit and David L. Baker were up for a retention. All three were ousted from the bench by voters. Fueling the effort financially were social conservatives, in and outside of Iowa, who contended the court overstepped its constitutional authority.
Ed Ramsell of Des Moines always felt that effort was “really dumb” and an embarrassment for Iowa. “Virtually nothing was changed by voting the judges out except the judges now work in a different office and probably like it better,” he wrote the Readers’ Watchdog.
Ramsell wanted to know how the three justices are doing now. He said that with another retention vote coming up Nov. 8 for the final three justices involved in Varnum, it might be a good time for analysis.
Ramsell is correct in his assumption that the justices survived just fine. All three are engaged in private practice, more well-known since the ruling that rippled around the world, but freer in their personal lives, two told me. (Streit did not return two phone calls seeking an interview.)

The Iowa Starting Line took a look at anti-LGBTQ groups funneling money to conservative candidates:

The state associate of an anti-LGBT hate group is donating thousands of dollars in state legislative races, according to finance reports filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB). The Family Leader PAC has donated more than $5,000 to eight candidates since 2015.
The Family Leader describes themselves as being “in association with the Family Research Council, a pro-family, nonpartisan public policy organization based in Washington D.C. TFL works cooperatively with FRC President Tony Perkins and in coalition with numerous other state and national public-policy groups.”
The Family Research Council is designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, for making “false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” as well as working “to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.” The Family Research Council goes beyond national policy, working “at the grassroots level, conducting outreach to pastors in an effort to “transform the culture.”

West Des Moines scored an ‘F’ on LGBTQ equality, WHO-TV reports:

In a recent LGBTQ equality report by the Human Rights Campaign, West Des Moines scores an “F.”
“I think it sends a message that West Des Moines is not being intentional about welcoming LGBT people,” says Executive Director of One Iowa Donna Red-Wing. “I hope that this score for is a big wake-up call.”
West Des Moines scored the lowest of all the major cities in Iowa, 42 out of 100 points. However, the city’s Human Resource Director says that’s misleading.
“Since we did not have any correspondence prior to the score, there are some things that we are doing that they did not realize,” says Jane Dodge.
The city was docked points for not having a human rights commission but Dodge says the city does have the position claiming the organization compiling the information wasn’t able to find it on the city’s website.
The DC-based Human Rights Campaign says they gave West Des Moines three opportunities to explain what they are doing for LGBT citizens, whether it was on the website or not.

The Associated Press reports that a church who was suing the state over transgender-inclusion has dropped the suit:

An Iowa church is dropping its lawsuit against the state and the city of Des Moines over an antidiscrimination law that church officials believed could force them to abide by transgender bathroom rules.
The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a voluntarily dismissal Wednesday.
The church sought an injunction to keep the city and state from applying the antidiscrimination law to churches, saying it violated free exercise of religious rights.
The law prohibits discrimination in use of public facilities based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied the injunction Oct. 14 saying it’s uncertain whether the law would be applied to the church.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission says it’s never enforced the law against churches and made it clear churches are generally exempt.

An LGBTQ activist in Iowa died recently, the Des Moines Register reports:

When David Twombley met future husband Lawrence Hoch in person for the first time, he was nervous. It was 2000, and the couple had been dating online for three months. Hoch was flying from New York to visit Twombley in Iowa.
The two hit it off, and a year later, Hoch had a confession for Twombley: “He said he had all of the flight schedules figured out so if I turned out to be an ax murderer, he could leave on the next plane,” Twombley said.
Twombley said that line is representative of the good-natured sense of humor that he’ll miss about Hoch, who died early Saturday in his sleep at his Urbandale home at age 74.
Hoch and Twombley were plaintiffs in the Varnum vs. Brien case that challenged the constitutionality of Iowa’s marriage law, which named marriage as an institution between a man and a woman and prevented same-sex couples from enjoying the legal benefits of marriage.

A small town just over the border from Minnesota is finding ways to fight homophobia, the CBC reports:

A play premiering Friday aims to fight homophobia by showing both the painful and beautiful experiences LGBT people and allies have in and around Steinbach, Man.
Steinbach Neighbours for Community produced the play called Still Listening: Voices Among Us. Val Hiebert was compelled to write and direct it because she has seen how hurtful homophobia can be.
“When you hear that a kid in school walks down the hall and hears his friends say, ‘We should just put the gays on an island and nuke them,’ that’s really painful. That’s hard to hear,” said Hiebert.
“Or when you’re sitting in a coffee shop in the community and somebody is talking about the Orlando shootings and they say, ‘Oh well. It’s just gays. They pop up everywhere. God is judging them.’ You can’t help but almost stop breathing when you hear stories like that.”

North Dakota
Bismarck passed a resolution on nondiscrimination last week, the Bismarck Tribune reports:

An anti-discrimination resolution discouraging biased employment, rental/housing and service practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity was approved without fanfare Tuesday by the Bismarck City Commission.
“The city commission doesn’t condone discrimination in any shape or form,” said Mayor Mike Seminary.
Supporters of the local LGBT community called the city resolution a quiet victory — especially as it follows the Legislature’s defeat last year of SB2279, which was seeking the same rights statewide.
“It’s a promising start,” said Kevin Tengesdal, who served on a roundtable on the issue in Bismarck. “We see this as a promising first step for the city and, hopefully, for a state nondiscriminatory effort. The city resolution recommends not discriminating based on orientation or gender expression.”
Tengesdal said future sponsorship of legislative action for LGBT rights hinges on the outcome of the Nov. 8 elections, but he is confident such bills will be introduced again.
While the resolution does not include enforcement options, it “is a good step” for possible future city ordinances, according to Tengesdal.

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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, 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.