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April 13, 2017 blog

Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa

8 years ago on April 3, the Iowa Supreme court ruled to continue with Iowa’s legacy of equality in a  unanimous vote, making Iowa the third state in the country to establish marriage equality.  Iowa marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples for the first time on April 27, 2009.

What this meant for same sex couples in Iowa is that for the first time in the state’s history, they were eligible for Employee Benefits, Family Leave, Medical Leave and Hospital Visitations, Immigration Benefits, Inheritance Rights, Medical Decisions, Property Rights, Social Security Benefits, Tax Benefits and more.  

There is still a lot of work to be done to educate and advocate for the LGBTQ community in Iowa and statewide agencies such as One Iowa, Iowa Safe Schools, The LGBT Health Initiative, PFLAG, and many local organizations continue to work hard to ensure that LGBTQ individuals and their families have the support and information they need and the opportunity to live, go to school and get to know LGBTQ role models in their own communities. In turn, this leads LGBTQ individuals and families wanting to stay in Iowa and continue to be the professionals, business owners, workers, stellar students, workforce and consumers that Iowa needs to continue to grow.

Glossary of  LGBTQ Terms (Courtesy of the National Human Rights Campaign)

Ally | A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.

Androgynous | Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

Asexual | The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.

Biphobia | Prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people.

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

Closeted | Describes an LGBTQ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming out | The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others.

Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

Gender dysphoria | Clinically significant distress caused when a person's assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term - which replaces Gender Identity Disorder - "is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults."

Gender expression | External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender identity | One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender non-conforming | A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.

Gender transition | The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.

Gender-expansive | Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.

Gender-fluid | According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.

Genderqueer | Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as "genderqueer" may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Homophobia | The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.

LGBTQ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”

Living openly | A state in which LGBTQ people are comfortably out about their sexual orientation or gender identity – where and when it feels appropriate to them.

Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations.

Queer | A term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations. Often used interchangeably with "LGBTQ."

Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Same-gender loving | A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.

Sexual orientation | An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Transphobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people.

Written by: Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Office of Latino Affairs

We are all uniquely human

On March 18th, I had the pleasure of being in Cedar Rapids to present at the Cedar Rapids first inaugural Community Cultural Celebration and Expo, which was hosted by the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It was kind of a bittersweet day as I spent it at the cultural celebration and then spent some time by myself afterward at the Czech and Slovak museum and in the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District. With a lump in my throat, I spent quiet time by myself walking through the museum, mostly in the Faces of Freedom exhibit.

My great grandmother was a first generation immigrant from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), making my grandfather a second generation immigrant. When my great grandmother came to the U.S. as a child, neither she nor her parents could speak English. They were in a new country, very far from the only home they had ever known. In their 20s and with small children in tow, her mother and father attempted to navigate a foreign country with strange new customs without knowing how to communicate with those they needed help from. Her son - my grandfather - worked very hard at a meat packing plant for much of his life, making a good living for his family. He and my grandmother raised five children on his salary. He always told me, “All work is honorable work.” I thought of all of them while walking through the exhibit and of all of the hard-working immigrants in the U.S. now trying to make a better life for their children and their families.

I also thought of the three Pakistani students from Kirkwood College that I spent about an hour talking with during the day. One was a female student and we spent a lot of time talking about women’s rights and her goal of starting a human rights organization in Pakistan. As she left the event, she gave me the most genuine hug of any stranger I’ve ever met. The other two students were male – with very different experiences in the U.S. The first told me how friendly everyone was here and how much he loved Iowa and how hospitable Iowans were. The other told me a story of how he was just in San Francisco and on a bus and took a phone call in his native language, asking his friends on the other line if they could pick him up from the bus stop. A man on the bus started telling at him to speak English, called him racial slurs and spit on him. “I don’t want to stay here. I miss my country. I’m not welcome here” were his last comments to me as we parted ways. I told him that I was glad he was here – knowing those words can only go so far after experiencing what he did on the bus.

After our talk, I went to the Czech and Slovak museum and was reminded as I stepped through the door of why my ancestors came here, and the discrimination they likely faced in a new world so very far from home, when they were just looking for peace, religious freedom, and a safe place to raise their children.

Most of us are or were immigrants at some point in our family history – whether by choice, or not. We all have a story. It is important to remember our history and to celebrate the ways that make us all uniquely human. 

Written by: Kristen Corey, Office on the Status of Women