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Iowa Wedding Venue Tells Gay Couple to Look Elsewhere: VIDEO


Lee Stafford and his fiance were turned away from a Grimes, Iowa wedding venue because they are gay. Betty Odgaard, owner of Gortz Haus, the venue where they had hoped to wed, says she denied them based on religious principles. She is a Mennonite.

KCCI reports:Odgaard

"Can I have my beliefs without being ostracized for that? I think I have my right too, and to stand firm my convictions and beliefs," said Odgaard.

Stafford said he has a new location for his wedding and said rejection hurts, but he will not let it affect his wedding.

"We are going to find some people that are still going to be reluctant to embrace us. That is just going to happen," said Stafford.

Stafford said he plans to pursue his case with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Watch KCCI's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Iowa Wedding Venue Tells Gay Couple to Look Elsewhere: VIDEO" »

Gay Teen Takes His Own Life, And Is The Fifth One To Do So From His High School

AJ Betts

Over the weekend, 16-year-old AJ Betts tragically ended his own life after enduring harassment at the hands of his peers for at least a year and a half. Betts was reportedly outed by his classmates, and made repeat attempts to stand up for himself and others. A memorial service was held for him earlier this morning.

According to Queerty, Betts underwent bullying simply for being "different". In addition to mocking his sexuality, bullies also chose to single him out for having a cleft lip and for being half black. His friend, Noah Lahmann, told KCCI 8 News, “you’re hurting people with words. I lost my best friend because of words." His mother also told reporters that she hopes to keep the spirit of her son's advocacy alive, to ensure that his death is not in vain:

"Several people who are gay or lesbian teens told us that AJ saved them from committing suicide when they were feeling desperate, and I really hope, for AJ's sake, that we can stop it, so that maybe, even if we can save one more life from bullying, that would be a success."

Betts MemorialShe added that prior to this weekend, "we had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I've ever met. Everybody who meets him says that."

As was noted by KCCI and Queerty, Betts is the fifth student from Iowa’s Southeast Polk High School to commit suicide in the last five years. The school's principal told KCCI that he could not comment on the nature or severity of the bullying that drove Betts to take his own life. He has also yet to comment on Southeast Polk's apparent problem with student suicide. The Southeast Polk Community School District has also chosen to remain silent on the issue. 

You can read KCCI's full report and watch the video HERE.

Iowa Department Of Public Health Reportedly Still Denying Accurate Birth Certificates To Gay Parents

According to a release by One Iowa, the state Department of Public Health is currently making married, same-sex parents jump through extra hoops when trying accurate birth certificates that contain the names of both parents. According to the release:

"Same-sex married couples are being told by the Iowa Department of Public Health that they must follow an affidavit process and obtain certified copies of their marriage license before accurate birth certificates can be issued. These requirements do not apply to non-gay Iowa families."

The controversy comes in the wake of Garter v. Newton, a case that, after being argued before the state supreme court, directed the Department of Public Health to begin issuing birth certificates containing the names of both same-sex spouses. At least one lesbian couple, who gave an interview to KCRG-TV, is experiencing difficulty with their child's birth certificate. Lindsey Clark and Joanne Abbas report "they filled out the necessary paperwork at the time of [their child]'s birth," and were confused when they received a certificate with only one name on it. 

One Iowa's director, Donna Red Wing, had strong words to share in the group's statement:

"It is unacceptable that the Iowa Department of Public Health is still dragging its heels on this very important issue of granting accurate birth certificates to children born to married lesbian mothers. The Attorney General's office knew at the time of the Gartner decision that a process needed to be in place, and they have failed. These couples are forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend time and money to attain what is rightfully and legally theirs. Nobody takes a certified copy of their marriage license to the hospital with them when they are about to give birth. The Iowa Department of Public Health is playing procedural games with the lives of the children of these married couples and that is simply outrageous and unfair. 
"No other state with marriage equality has treated same-sex married couples in this manner. Equality in Iowa should mean something. It is time, once and for all, for the Iowa Department of Public Health to end its shameful practice of denying children their legal bond to both parents."
Any couples experiencing similar problems are encouraged to call Lambda Legal's help desk at 312-663-4413.


Iowa High School Principal Bans 'The Laramie Project', Says It's 'Too Adult'


A high school principal and superintendent in Ottumwa, Iowa are denying the students the right to perform The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman's play about the hate crime murder of gay Wyoming teen Matthew Shepard.

ShepardWatch The Heartland's Connection report on the controversy, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Ottumwa Courier reports:

"None of us can understand why they are shying away from it," said Jordan Young, 16, a student who is secretary of the OHS drama club. "The principal [of OHS] wants to get away from bullying, and he has initiatives he really [pushes]. So to hit so hard on a show that addresses bullying, it makes no sense."

She said other students she's met with feel similarly. "We were all confused more than anything," she said. "We didn't understand what was wrong with it. The planning started in October of last year. We have auditions in a month and a half!" She said students believe the problem lies in the subject of the play.

The Heartland Connection adds:

OHS Principal Mark Hanson denied the play from being performed through the school’s drama department. We reached out to Principal Hanson but he did not want to go on camera but he said “the play is too adult for a high school production but it does preach a great message.”

Ottumwa Community School’s Superintendent Davis Eidahl (pictured, top) says he fully supports Principal Hanson’s decision. “We really want the focus of our Ottumwa High School productions to be for the entire family,” said Eidahl.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation released a statement, which reads, in part:

This is not a play about being gay, or promoting anyone being gay; it’s about being targeted, hurt, murdered for being different, or perceived to be different, whatever that difference may be – and how this affects the community.

It is regrettable that the administration decided not to take the lead to provide their students and their community such an important learning opportunity, and instead is focused on a desire to show off their auditorium in what they feel is a “family-friendly” manner. We respectfully suggest that the main mission of a school district is to educate, not to entertain.

Watch The Heartland's Connection report on the controversy, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Iowa High School Principal Bans 'The Laramie Project', Says It's 'Too Adult'" »

Julius Carter Is The Real Gay Spider-Man


When Andrew Garfield recently posed the question: "Why can't Spider-Man be gay?", he was no doubt unfamiliar with Julius Carter, a young man living out this very fantasy in real life.

Once persecuted for his sexuality, Julius is now one of seven Spider-Man stuntmen for the blockbuster musical "Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark." But for Julius, swinging 30 feet above a Broadway stage at 30 miles an hour in a Spider-Man costume is not the most impressive or awe-inspiring part of his life, it's the journey he's made as a gay man overcoming adversity.

Julius' amazing story began the day of his Iowa high school graduation, when he was confronted by a villain that would have made even the Green Goblin envious.

Continue, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Julius Carter Is The Real Gay Spider-Man" »

Iowa Republicans Move to Slash Pay of Pro-Equality Judges

Iowa Republicans, the same group that has been trying to oust the Supreme Court judges who ruled to legalize same-sex marriage there in 2009, have filed legislation that would slash their salaries, Right Wing Watch reports.

IowaFrom the Iowa City Gazette:

A handful of House conservatives want to reduce the pay of Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in a 2009 decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriages as part of an effort to maintain the balance of power in state government.

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the three co-equal branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Tuesday.

The justices “trashed the separation of powers” with their unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision and implementation of same-sex marriage without a change in state law banning any marriages expect between one man and one woman, added Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull.

Their amendment to House File 120, the judicial branch budget bill, would lower the salaries of the four justices on the seven-member court who were part of the unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision to $25,000 – the same as a state legislator.

It’s not meant to be punitive, Alons and Shaw said Tuesday.
“We’re just holding them responsible for their decision, for going beyond their bounds,” Shaw said.


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