An Iowa man says he was fired from his job as a store clerk for "feminine behavior." Twenty-two year-old Wayne Shimer has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and issued a lawsuit against Casey’s General Store outside of Des Moines.
The Des Moines Register reports:
After approximately a month, the store manager learned Shimer was gay, LeGrant said.
In a meeting in her office, the manager allegedly told Shimer not to act “feminine” in the store, according to the lawsuit. Such behavior would make customers and co-workers uncomfortable, the manager allegedly said.
“She didn’t want his ‘feminine behavior’ to scare off the customers, and she was concerned that it may have some impact on some of the employees,” LeGrant said. “(Shimer) was blown away by that, because it was something that she approached him with completely out of the blue. It hadn’t come up even indirectly before then.”
During the time Shimer worked at the store, the supervisor made “repeated” derogatory comments toward him, including “you don’t fit in normal society,” according to the lawsuit. Shimer’s husband wasn’t allowed by the manager to visit Shimer while he worked.
Shimer says he hopes this lawsuit will further deter anti-gay discrimination.
“It is my hope that this civil action will open the eyes of employers and the community and serve as a reminder that sexual orientation and who we love should not disqualify anyone from employment.”
Marriage equality has historically been seen as a liberal, coastal development: same-sex couples can now drive through the Northeast from Maine to Washington, DC without leaving a marriage equality state, and California allowed same-sex couples to wed early--albeit briefly--in 2008. But since 2009, there has been one unusual, non-coastal exception: Iowa, which was joined by Minnesota this May and Illinois just last night as the only states in the Midwest to provide equal marriage rights.
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited married same-sex couples from obtaining federal benefits, couples in non-marriage equality states in the Midwest--say, for example, Missouri or Wisconsin--have been able to wed in nearby marriage equality states to access at least some of the benefits of marriage. As Al Jazeera America reports, Scott Emanuel and Ed Reggi of Missouri have become a pair of unexpected heroes on that front:
The St. Louis pair organizes buses that take area couples to Iowa to tie the knot. To date, they have put together 14 trips that have taken 150 couples to get married. Emanuel and Reggi were the first. Brandi and Kate Davis were the 142nd.
Dubbed the Marriage Equality Bus, the project was born from Emanuel and Reggi’s own love story. They were surprised when the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in that state in 2009, and the decision offered an opportunity. Iowa had become an unexpected solution to a unique problem facing LGBT couples in the Midwest.
“We found a few friends who wanted to go and get married too,” he said. “Then it expanded. Then we had more than a van.”
Emanuel and Reggi ended up chartering a bus with 16 other couples. After the first bus trip, word spread, and they haven’t stopped since.
“It’s the first time a lot of couples see their names on a document together,” Emanuel said. “That’s significant.”
With Illinois days away from becoming the 15th state to allow same-sex couples to marry (Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will signed the legislature-approved bill into law sometime this month), couples in Missouri and other nearby states without marriage equality will have a new, closer option than Iowa where there can get married. For couples in Missouri, a state with deep red majorities in both houses of the legislature and no laws prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people, that's a very good thing, indeed.
Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed an appeal in the Iowa Supreme Court over the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison and required to register as a sex offender based on a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom, said the organization via press release.
In June 2008, Rhoades had a one-time sexual encounter with Adam Plendl during which they used a condom. Several days later, Plendl was told by a friend that Rhoades might be HIV-positive.The police were contacted, and Mr. Plendl cooperated fully in the prosecution of Mr. Rhoades. The police arrested Rhoades in September 2008, and on the advice of his counsel, he pled guilty. Despite the fact that a condom was used and Mr. Plendl did not contract HIV, Rhoades was convicted under Iowa's HIV criminalization law. He received the maximum sentence: 25 years in prison and classification as the most serious type of sex offender. Subsequently, the court suspended his prison sentence, and he was placed on supervised probation for five years. On March 15, 2010, Rhoades filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief, arguing that the attorney who advised him to plead guilty had failed to inform him of the specifics of the statute, resulting in his conviction for a crime he did not in fact commit. In December 2011, the district court denied the application, and Lambda Legal began representing Rhoades on appeal. Oral argument were presented to the Iowa Court of Appeals in early September (2013), and on October 2, a three-judge panel affirmed Rhoades's conviction.
Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the past four years. Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV. It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.
Added Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal: "We're asking the Iowa Supreme Court to review this case because the facts here don't add up to a conviction. The Court of Appeals' decision was based on a misinterpretation of the plain language of the statute, and we look forward to presenting the case to the state's supreme court. A person who uses a condom and engages in safe sex, as Nick did, does not have the intent required to support a conviction under Iowa's law addressing exposure to HIV."
More on the case at Lambda Legal's website.
Previously on Towleroad...
Nick Rhoades: Imprisoned fro Months, Punished for Life, for Failure to Disclose [tlrd]
Criminalizing the HIV-Positive Community [tlrd]
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Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who initially supported the government shutdown, are now protesting it in Washington, DC.
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A few months ago a gay couple in Iowa were turned away from an art gallery wedding venue that they wanted to use for their own wedding because their homosexuality violated the religious sensibilities of the Mennonite owners. A discrimination case was pursued by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
A few days ago the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an 11-count lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and wants the Commission to rule that the Odgaard's refusal to host a same-sex wedding in their public art gallery wedding venue was not a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
A spokesperson for the Becket Fund engaged in some contradictions, claiming that they didn't want to eliminate homosexuality as a protected class, just to allow the Mennonite beliefs of the Osgaards to supersede the civil rights of Lee Stafford and his fiancee.
The spokesperson also said “To our knowledge, no Iowa or Federal court has ever forced anyone to participate in a religious activity against their will. Doing so now would abandon Iowa’s history of being the vanguard of protecting individual freedom, and out of line with state and federal law.” This is true that no state or federal law has forced people to unwillingly take part in a religious ceremony, but state and federal laws have ruled that public venues and public services cannot discriminate based on orientation, and venues that have discriminated have lost those legal battles.