Tip for Republicans: Here's how not to do youth outreach (updated)

State Senator Dennis Guth demonstrated today that he merits strong consideration in any search for the most clueless Iowa legislator.  

As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, the clueless legislator isn’t just wrong about a public policy issue. He also lacks the internal filter to warn him that he’s about to make a fool of himself.

Clueless legislators propose blatantly unconstitutional laws or wonder whether the United Nations will force Iowans out of their beloved rural homes.

Guth showed signs of cluelessness early in his Iowa Senate campaign. Since he was elected last November, it’s become clear that this man has a real bee in his bonnet about homosexuality. Not only was he the lead sponsor and public voice for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, he was among 16 Republican lawmakers who idiotically threatened to pull state funding from the Des Moines Area Community College. Those legislators were upset that DMACC’s diversity commission co-sponsored the Governors LGBTQ Youth Conference, but they didn’t appear to understand how state funding for community college works.

Today Guth rose to deliver a personal point in the Iowa Senate chamber, hoping to persuade listeners about the dangers of sexual immorality and homosexual relationships in particular. It was a public speaking failure on many levels. For instance, he wasn’t addressing the right audience. He started with a joke that wasn’t funny. He sounded robotic at times as he read from his prepared text. He ended with a metaphor that made no sense.

But most disastrously from the perspective of those who want to make the Republican Party more appealing to young people, Guth reinforced every stereotype about ignorant and narrow-minded conservatives.

O.Kay Henderson posted the full clip of Guth’s speech at Radio Iowa, and I highly recommend listening. I have transcribed part of the clip, beginning around the 1:15 mark.

Tomorrow is the day of dialogue: a day when students in high school and college are encouraged to have open dialogue about the questions of life and relationships. I care about children, and I would be remiss not to give a questioning youth who is searching to know about relationships a full and balanced perspective.

I hope that you will hear what I have to say today in the spirit of dialogue. Milton Friedman once said, “A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.” The cultural debate on same-sex relationships has not been one of fair discussion, one where the pros and cons are calmly considered. In the name of equality, such a discussion has been stifled, sidelined and just plain blocked in what appears to be an effort to sway public opinion.

The media, for the most part, has [sic] bamboozled us into thinking that having a relationship outside of the boundaries of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is positive, happy and fulfilling. Movies, television shows, articles and magazines abound with this theme, giving partial information to a vulnerable and impressionable audience: our children.

The question is asked: how does a same-sex relationship hurt you? The implication within this question is that one worries he will be hurt physically or emotionally. Of course that won’t happen literally, so one is left to feel foolish and shameful. This is not honest communication. Rather, it is a way of jamming the mental circuits so that we do not think of the consequences of a lifestyle that is outside the committed bonds of a one-man, one-woman marriage.

Insert your own joke about “jammed mental circuits” here. Picking up with Guth’s speech, around the 3:25 mark:

Let’s have a fair and balanced conversation. Back to the question: how does same-sex relationship[s] hurt you? This is similar to asking me, “How does smoking hurt you?”

Just as there are multiple ways that your smoking hurts me, such as secondhand smoke, increased insurance costs, cost to society from days lost to poor health, so it is with same-sex relationships. There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase of sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites. For example, there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth.

In talking to a young person, I would not want to exclude the fact that there are numerous health problems associated with the homosexual lifestyle. This includes sexually transmitted infections, many of which have negative lifelong consequences, ultimately shortening the life span. I would direct the youth to websites such as Facts About Youth, where they can find out more about the psychological consequences of this lifestyle. […]

If I saw someone going the wrong way on a one-way street, I would make every effort to stop and redirect them. Simply put, it saves lives to have honest communication not only about the sexually transmitted diseases that shorten lifespans, but also about the deep loneliness that accompanies a life based on youth, beauty and sex.

Guth went on and on, citing research allegedly showing that children thrive best with a mother and a father, claiming that homosexuality is “a lie” based on “bad information,” and quoting from the Bible about the definition of manhood, womanhood, marriage. Picking up on Guth again, around the 6:45 mark:

Most of you know these things that I tell you are true, but we have been intimidated into not speaking out. We all have a choice: we can stand on the truth, or we can stand on the sidelines.

For the sake of our children, I hope you’ll consider seriously what I’ve said and stand without hesitation for truth, and decide to have honest communication and discussion. Otherwise we will find ourselves sitting back, hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right. This is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping that he will eat you last. But eat you he will. Thank you, Madame President.

The FAMiLY Leader crowd may be celebrating Guth’s stand, but Democrats can only hope that Republican elected officials keep spreading this kind of message far sand wide.

UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy, who is gay, spoke today after Guth. This sound bite made the KCCI television news: “McCoy says being gay isn’t a choice, but ‘you certainly can choose to be ignorant.’”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Tyler Olson released this comment:

“As a legislator and Iowan I am disgusted by Senator Guth’s comments.  They are offensive and inaccurate and have no place in the legislature or our state. Unfortunately far too many Republican leaders feel this way and perpetuate these sorts of lies that only serve to discriminate against our gay brothers and sisters.  The Iowa Democratic Party remains committed to full equality for LGBT Iowans. I hope Governor Branstad and other Republican leaders join us as we stand up to the ignorance of individuals like Sen. Guth.”

The LGBT advocacy group One Iowa sent out this press release:

One Iowa and District 4 Residents Strongly Condemn Senator Guth’s Lies about the LGBT Community

Statements from One Iowa and Senator Guth’s constituents

(Des Moines, IA)-Today, Senator Dennis Guth, a Republican from Senate District 4, took advantage of the “points of personal privilege,” where he made vitriolic and misleading comments about the LGBT community, describing how he feels he and his family have been hurt and how civilization has fallen by what he describes as the “homosexual lifestyle.” Not only Sen. Guth dismiss the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a “lifestyle,” he then went on to say that it was “a lie.”

Click here to listen to audio from Radio Iowa

One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing responded:

“These disgusting and outrageous lies have no place in the Iowa Legislature. Senator Guth is nothing more than a puppet regurgitating the rhetoric of the well-funded anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family. Don’t we, as Iowans, deserve better than this?

Iowa has stood as a beacon of justice and equality, the third state in the nation to offer marriage equality. More than 6,000 loving and committed same-sex couples have made that lifelong commitment to marriage here in our state. We live here-we work, we pay our taxes, we vote, we raise our families, we go to church and we contribute a great deal to our neighborhoods and communities. Senator Guth, today you chose to infect the business of the legislature with your hurtful and homophobic rant. Shame on you, Senator Guth!”

Married couple Heather Yeoman and Rachel Olson, District 4 residents from Lake Mills responded:

“It is clear that Senator Guth, our so-called ‘representative’ does not value our family nor the love and commitment we have for one another. I am disgusted and ashamed of my Senator for spreading such ignorant and hurtful lies about our family and countless other Iowa families. Make no mistake, Senator-our marriage and our love is not a lie.”

Joy M. Newcom, District 4 resident from Forest City responded:

“As an Iowan, a former educator and a mother, I am ashamed of my Senator and his horrific comments about the LGBT community. LGBT people are a part of my extended family. They are my friends and have been my coworkers. They are students I have taught and continue to respect for the manner in which they live their lives today. These comments, parroted from erroneous ideology from anti-gay groups, are beyond outrageous. They are dangerous lies.

Senator Guth, we, the Newcom family, are your constituents and your fellow Iowans. You claim to be our public servant, but you are hurting our community by spreading lies posed as science. You are breeding a culture of injustice for people we live with and work alongside. Please stop. You were not elected to legislate your morality or to spread falsehoods.”

SECOND UPDATE: I enjoyed Todd Dorman’s take at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Excerpt:

To be fair, Guth spoke some truth. The dialogue over marriage equality has not been fair. And one major reason is that his side brings arguments like this.

For one thing, it’s difficult to regard a guy who has lived on the same farm north of Klemme nearly all of his life as a credible expert on the complexities of human sexuality.  I grew up just 17 miles away, and I’m still not an expert.

And even if you try, it’s tough to reconcile Guth’s worries about STDs and emotional health with his crusade to outlaw the sort of committed, stable marital relationships for same-sex couples that would conceivably address both issues. Guth claims to lament the tolls taken by society’s historic inability to accept gays and lesbians, while also demanding that it continue.

Guth is trying oh-so-politely to reduce their human identity to a sex act. That used to an effective tactic. But now, outside of Klemme, and quite possibly inside, more and more people have come to see gays and lesbians as family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, elected leaders, etc. And seeing them as individuals makes it a lot tougher to treat them as second-class citizens, as Guth prescribes.

To Guth, this is all media spin. To many of the rest of us, it’s reality. Guth is desperate for the old stereotypes and fears to take hold again, but it’s too late. Support for marriage equality has quickly become a new sobriety test in politics, especially for young voters.  No joke, senator.

Guth told the Des Moines Register on April 18,

“I am willing to stand up and continue delivering the truth.”

The idea behind his speech, he explained, was to make sure that Iowa youth “get all of the facts and not part of the facts” about gay relationships.

Click that link to watch the three-minute video of Guth’s interview.

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix must be spitting mad.  

  • Dennis Black

    I saw this earlier.  Could this be why Governor Branstad backed Dennis Black in a primary?  The pro-filter caucus within the GOP should say something.  LOL.

  • Sen. Mark Segebart

    made some similar statements in an interview with Doug Burns a year ago. This came up again when Segebart, along with Guth, was one of the sour sixteen legislators who wanted to withhold funds for DMACC because of its support for the Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth.

    Segebart and other Christian conservatives in Iowa say the event back-doors teaching of anti-biblical behavior, of the sins of homosexuality that place our kids on a speed-walking path to eternal citizenship in hell.

    Television shows, movies and media coverage in general can make being gay seem like an awfully intriguing option, Segebart told me last May.

    “We need to change the way media – and I’m talking here Hollywood mostly – demonstrates what society should be like, the wrong image of gay people being something more than the rest of us, a protected class, does only more damage to those younger people,” Segebart said in an interview last May with this newspaper and Carroll Broadcasting. “It puts pressures on them that they do not need.”

    Segebart said being gay is an unnatural, manufactured attraction.

    “The more you talk about it, the more it plants that seed in young, impressionable minds,” Segebart said. “Once you start thinking about something, it’s hard to get it out of your brain.”


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