The Iowa Senate is expected to debate controversial legislation today that would add "sexual orientation" to the Iowa Civil Rights Code. Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, the lead sponsor of the bill, says: "No worker should be fired from their job because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Nobody should be thrown out of their apartment or their housing or denied credit, or denied educational opportunity, any of those things, because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. It’s just wrong and we’re going to put a stop to it."
Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, is one of the opponents of the bill. McKibben asks: "Are we creating new classifications of protected citizens, who simply don’t have the characteristics of someone who is identifiable as black,…or women or other minorities. And I think there’s a very major concern about its impact long-term on small business." Gronstal says it doesn’t create a special class.
Gronstal says the legislation applies to gay people and straight people. "This legislation isn’t special rights for gay people. It’s equal rights for all people," Gronstal says. McKibben says the issue should be left to local communities to decide.
McKibben says: "All citizens ought to be protected. Where do you draw the line on classifications? We had this debate on the bullying bill. We said that schools ought protect and have a safe environment for all students. That was exactly the message. I think the same message here. But to continue to carve out protected classes, I just don’t think is the right way to go. And I think that’s the concern in our caucus."
McKibben, who is an attorney, says changing the Civil Rights code would make it easier for gays and lesbians to sue an employer who wasn’t even aware of their sexual orientation.