Governor Tom Vilsack says senators who vote against the gay man he wants to serve on the Iowa Board of Education will be guilty of bigotry. Vilsack says Jonathan Wilson’s “well-qualified” for the job. “Are you for bigotry or aren’t you?” Vilsack asks senators. Senators began discussing Wilson last night and are scheduled to pick up the conversation again today before voting. Senator Neil Schuerer, a republican from Amana, says his vote against Wilson isn’t because Wilson’s gay.Schuerer says it’s time for a different approach for education, and after a dozen years on the Des Moines School Board, Wilson doesn’t have fresh ideas. Schuerer’s comments enraged Senator Matt McCoy, a democrat from Des Moines who is gay. McCoy says Wilson hasn’t served on the Des Moines School Board for 10 years, and McCoy’s voice grew louder as he asked Schuerer who would meet such standards. Schuerer laughed at McCoy, then said “thank you for the dramatics.” That’s when Senate leaders cut off debate. Senator Mike Connolly, a democrat from Dubuque, says it would be a “tragedy” if Wilson doesn’t get the job because of opposition from what Connolly called “the far right.” Connolly says “the message is if you don’t look like me and act like me and believe like I do, there’s no place in Iowa for you.” Senator Dennis Black, a democrat from Grinnell, says senators who intend to vote against Wilson dance around the issue, but Black says their “no” vote will come because Wilson’s gay. “Let’s get serious,” Black says. “You know it. We all know it.” Wilson appeared last Thursday before a senate committee, and the governor says that should have convinced senators he’s qualified for the post.Vilsack says he hopes Wilson “opened some minds and some hearts” with his remarks. At least 34 senators must vote in favor of the governor’s appointments, and Senate G-O-P leaders say Wilson will not get enough “yes” votes. Also yesterday, the Senate voted to confirm Ted Stilwill as the director of the Iowa Department of Eduation.
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