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Burlington, Iowa and LGBT Rights

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Burlington Iowa

Gay, transgender ordinance headed to vote“.

This was the title of a recent headline story in the Burlington Hawkeye, the newspaper of Burlington, Iowa. Why I am reading the Hawkeye? Well, it just so happens that the majority of my family lives in or near Burlington. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. Burlington is the epicenter of my familial roots.

The basic gist of the article is that the Burlington Human Rights Commission wants to add language “to the city code that would list sexual orientation and gender identification as protected classes.” A city councilman, let’s just call him Jim “I’m not a homophobe if I say I’m not” Davidson, has argued against adding the protection language due to his discriminatory belief system:

Davidson said Wednesday that adding language to protect gays and transgender people would be an endorsement of “lifestyles that are unacceptable.”

“I’m not for anybody being discriminated against,” Davidson said. “But in the past decade, the agenda of homosexuals has been to make their lifestyle acceptable when it is an abhorrent lifestyle. There are a lot of people in this community that feel the same way as me.”

At a work session Monday, Davidson called homosexuality a choice. That being the case, he said, it should not to be treated the same as other protected classes.

“If I were a black person or a Jew or any other minority, I would be very upset to hear that homosexuality is considered the same as me, because it’s not. A person is black not because they choose to be black.”

Davidson is against anybody being discriminated against as long as they are not gay. His logic will make your head spin. Jim, if being gay is a choice, as you say it is (I believe that it is not a choice), wouldn’t that mean that religion should be removed from the list of protected classes? You know, religious beliefs being a choice and all… Oops. Probably didn’t get on the logic sit ‘n spin before you opened your mouth. You are probably correct about the fact that Burlington, like a lot of towns in the U.S., unfortunately, is populated with a lot of homophobic people.

Council member Matt Murray said he respectfully disagreed with Davidson’s position. He argued the council should not parse words, but take a stand against all forms of discrimination.

“What are you afraid of?” Murray asked the council. “No one should have to face discrimination here in Burlington.”

Exactly. Matt Murray for the win. And then, the mayor showcases how he completely doesn’t get it. Not even close…

Mayor Bill Ell suggested the council do away with individually listing all protected classes, including race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability or ancestry.

Instead, he said a paragraph stating the city was in compliance with the state’s equal rights law, which last year began considering sexual orientation and gender identification as protected classes, was sufficient.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to take that list out and just let people know we’re following state code when it comes to protected classes?” Ell said.

Umm no. Bill, can I call you Bill? It’s important to individually list all protected classes. Simply stating that you’re following state code is like saying that you are following the Iowa state rules even though you wish you didn’t have to. I think Matt is right when he asks what you all are afraid of.


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Written by Eric Stoller

October 7th, 2008 at 10:12 pm

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.wordpress.com Dennis

    “I’m not for anybody being discriminated against,” Davidson said. “But in the past decade, the agenda of homosexuals has been to make their lifestyle acceptable when it is an abhorrent lifestyle.

    Is analogous to:

    “I don’t have anything against group X, but everyone knows they are all lying, cheating scumbags.”

    Eric, I’m glad you took the high road with this post. I think my brain would have exploded trying to process that statement.

  • http://bqhoover.wordpress.com Britt Q.

    Jim “I’m not a homophobe if I say I’m not” Davidson = laughs.

    Mr. City Councilman, if homosexuality is a choice, then isn’t heterosexuality? I mean, if you have the option and choice to be gay, and you don’t choose that so-called choice, then you have chosen to be straight. And that means you can’t be protected, either, because it might upset Black people. What perfect, sane, well-reasoned logic.

    Glad to see you back on the Internets, E.S.

  • Brenda

    Thanks for the post. I grew up there, and though my mother still lives there, I’m glad I left.
    BTW it may not be such a bad idea to open up the choice argument regarding religion; it might get the fundie Christian dominionist types to show their true colours.

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