Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed a bill into law today that adds sexual orientation to the state Civil Rights Code. Culver, a Democrat, says the measure gives gays and lesbians the same protection from discrimination in housing and employment as other minority groups.
Des Moines businessman Rich Eychaner was on hand for the signing. Eychaner says he came out as a gay man in 1978 and has been fighting for the issue every since. "Thirty years ago I thought I would get this for my own career, and it became something for the next generation," Eychaner says, "but, the young people coming out of high school today and college will know they can stay in Iowa, and make a career and a future here, and know they’ll be safe and protected."
Eychaner says it’s fitting that the governor signed the bill at Principal Financial in Des Moines, one of the state’s largest employers. Eychaner says he thinks Meredith and Principal, Bankers Trust and Westbank were all companies that supported the bill because they know to attract good workers to the state, you have to have an opening and welcome environment. He says, "This is a bill that says we want to be fair to everybody, and so wherever you come from and whatever your situation in life, you’ll be treated correctly in Iowa."
But the president of the Iowa Family Coalition says many businesses oppose the change. Chuck Hurley says the Civil Rights Code is intended to protect people from bias against an unchangeable characteristic. Hurley says: "What is gender identity? Is it how I feel a certain day? How is an employer supposed to know that? They (employers) cannot have clarity in how they’re going to handle hiring, firing, promotions demotions under this bill. This is not something like race. This is something that goes to a behavior."
Hurley says his group believes the bill is "legislative and cultural malpractice." Hurley says if you look at the bill it does not end discrimination. "It adds a couple of categories of people, funders of campaigns, who have political muscle. It does no end discrimination for all people," Hurley says. Hurley made his comments on the Iowa Public TV program "Iowa Press."