Guest Columnist

The importance of being an ally for LGBTQ Iowans

Supporters of transgender rights cheer and applaud a speaker during a demonstration against the Trump administration’s gender policy effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Supporters of transgender rights cheer and applaud a speaker during a demonstration against the Trump administration’s gender policy effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The Iowa Supreme Court’s recent groundbreaking decision that Medicaid must pay for medically necessary health care services for transgender Iowans has led to attacks on the transgender community and the court.

The offensive comments — typically based on harmful stereotypes and hurtful allegations — remind us of the backlash a decade ago when, on April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to get married.

Back then the mean-spirited rhetoric alleged marriage equality would be cataclysmic; that it would destroy the institution of marriage, ruin society and scar our children for life. But none of those things have happened.

Intolerant voices from the past and present remind us that while rights can be given, they can also be taken away. If it was up to some of the elected representatives who control the Executive and Legislative branches of Iowa government, we fear the rights of LGBTQ and transgender Iowans would be rolled back.

Thankfully, these elected representatives do not have the final say. That’s the role of the Iowa Supreme Court.

We are thankful everyday that the Iowa Supreme Court exists and that its justices are smart, fair-minded, thoughtful people who take their role seriously. All Iowans need an independent governmental body to control the excesses of elected representatives and keep their power in check. Without the court, and without the ability of its justices to remain above the fray of politics, our state would be a much less desirable place to live.

But court rulings in and of themselves don’t change how people think or feel about others. Real change happens when people get to know people who are unlike themselves and become their allies.

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That’s what we did. We’d always been inclusive and had LGBTQ friends. We were comfortable with that until one of our gay friends told us that feeling inclusive is one thing but being a visible and vocal ally is another. Allies stand up and speak out for and with others. Allies make it clear to members of the LGBTQ community that if battles need to be fought, they will not be fought alone. Ally voices of inclusion, respect and civility help drown out the voices of hate, bigotry and misunderstanding.

In the process of becoming active allies, we were reminded that while some of us may look, think, believe, worship, act or love differently, we are all humans deserving of respect and equality under the law. Our acceptance and understanding of differences enriches our lives.

We know it’s a tough time in Iowa and America to be a member of a minority group. It’s a time where it seems perfectly OK for elected leaders, commentators, organizations and others to use words and take actions that are disrespectful and hurtful, and to work to divide people rather than unite them.

We don’t think that’s OK. We urge our fellow citizens to help make this state a better place for ALL Iowans. Do what you can to make a positive difference. Make an effort to get to know people who are different from you. Stand up and speak out for them and with them when they are under attack.

If reasonable voices are silent, only extreme voices will be heard. Don’t let that happen.

• John and Terri Hale are co-owners of The Hale Group, a consulting, advocacy and communications firm located in Ankeny. Terri serves on the board of directors for One Iowa, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. Comments: terriandjohnhale@gmail.com

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