Iowa governor signs civil rights expansion into law

by Mike Glover
Saturday May 26, 2007
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DES MOINES, Iowa - Gays and lesbians in Iowa will get new protections from discrimination in housing, education and a host of other areas under legislation signed into law Friday.

"The civil rights struggle has defined our country for generations,’’ said Gov. Chet Culver. "This has been a nearly 20-year fight up at the Legislature. We are here to celebrate one more victory.’’

The measure Culver signed adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of traits included in Iowa’s civil rights law, which already banned discrimination based on such factors as race and ethnicity.

With the signing, Iowa becomes the nation’s 19th state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The civil rights expansion was one of two major victories for gay rights activists during this year’s Legislature. Culver already has signed a measure that adds sexual orientation to a list of traits protected from bullying and requires schools to report incidents of bullying.

Praise for the measure was not unanimous.

Speaking Friday on the Iowa Public Television show "Iowa Press,’’ former legislator Chuck Hurley denounced the new law.

"This is legislative and cultural malpractice,’’ said Hurley, who heads the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center. He said the measure gives gays and lesbians special rights.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Democratic floor manager of the measure, sharply disagreed. She said the measure simply bans what has become routine discrimination against gays and lesbians.

"It’s about ending discrimination,’’ Wessel-Kroeschell said on the program. "It certainly isn’t about special rights.’’

Des Moines businessman Rich Eychaner, a prominent gay activist, said the signing ceremony capped a generation-long fight for equal rights.

"I’ve been working on this for 30 years,’’ said Eychaner.

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