How the Iowa House passed the civil rights bill in 2007

Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy shares his memories of an important legislative victory twelve years ago. -promoted by Laura Belin

Last month Iowans celebrated ten years of marriage equality. Two years prior, the legislature added protections for LGBTQ people to Iowa’s civil rights law. One of my children asked me to share that experience in writing. What you are about to read is an excerpt.

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The 2007 votes that made 2019 a historic year for transgender Iowans

Only three months in, 2019 is already the most significant year for transgender equality in Iowa since 2007, when state lawmakers and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Act. That 1965 law hadn’t been significantly amended in decades.

The crucial Iowa House and Senate votes on the civil rights law happened during the first year since the 1960s that Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Support for LGBTQ equality is often taken for granted now in Democratic circles, but the issue was seen as more politically volatile twelve years ago. The bill amending the civil rights act came late in the 2007 legislative session and could not have passed without some Republican votes.

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How do you represent those people?

Aaron Hawbaker is the chief public defender for Black Hawk County. -promoted by Laura Belin

I am a criminal defense attorney. More specifically, I am a public defender. That further distinction is important for this discussion, because public defenders do not choose their clients based upon ability to pay or the merits of their case. They take all comers, warts and all. I am now in my fifteenth year of public defense and have had the responsibility of defending individuals charged with the spectrum of human baseness.

I am often asked, more frequently the more notorious the case, how can you represent those people?

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Protecting Iowa's courts

Connie Ryan on the current Republican effort to pack the courts: “Iowans understand this legislation is intended to advance the specific political agenda of a small group with a loud voice, placing our courts in harm’s way.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa jumped into the business of protecting Iowa’s fair and impartial courts upon the announcement by the religious right in the summer of 2010 that they intended to unseat three highly qualified Supreme Court justices. They were politicizing the retention elections simply because they were mad the court ruled for the marriage rights of same-sex couples based on equal protections under our constitution.

The thought of a special interest group seeking revenge on our courts for a constitutionally-based and unanimous decision was unprecedented and frightening. Iowans wondered if this was where the division in our country was really taking us? Would extremist, special interest groups actually go after highly qualified justices committed to the constitution and the rule of law as retribution? The answer was yes.

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