Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Cedar Rapids community rallies around inclusive statement after board member falsely connects it with child sex trafficking


No matter how many times the above claim about gay men and pedophilia has been refuted, some people still believe it as an incident in Cedar Rapids IA proved.

A recent incident during a board meeting in Cedar Rapids, IA reminds us that the prejudicial beliefs about groups of people generally don't go away. Instead, they get remodeled or retooled into another form.

 In the past, folks used to accuse LGBTQ people of trying to 'recruit' children. Now they say we are attempting to 'groom' them.  The incident also reminds us of the success we have when we refuse to allow ourselves to be maligned.

From KCRG in Cedar Rapids (link includes a video news report of the situation including footage of the meeting):

A statement meant to promote inclusion in Fairfield, led to controversy, when city council member Judy Ham said it could lead to perversions and sex trafficking. Confused and offended, several community members in Fairfield addressed the city council Monday night over the comments, which were made January 10th. 

 “This is called grooming if you don’t know what sex trafficking is,” Ham said while holding up the Statement of Intent prepared by the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. The statement, condemns discrimination based on several factors including sexual orientation and gender identity. Council member Doug Flournoy, responded to Ham’s concern at the January 10th meeting. 

 “No this document in and of itself is not grooming but it’s a component of grooming isn’t it,” Flournoy said. “Yes it is,” Ham answered. “Because you normalize and you teach children these are normal things for people to be doing,” Flournoy explained. 

 The conversation was tabled on the 10th, but led several LQBTQ residents to the microphone Monday night, to call on the city to pass the Statement of Intent. 

According to The Ottumwa Courier, Ham's accusations of grooming had the opposite effect of what she may have intended. Not only did LGBTQ residents speak out in favor of the statement, but her claim was also condemned by the IOWA ACLU:

A statement by ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said the resolution included language that aligns with what the city is required to do by law. 

 "Treating everyone equally and with dignity, as the letter of intent states, is the foundation of fair and good government," Stringer said. "It's important to note that the law requires the government, including the City of Fairfield, to treat people fairly and equally and not discriminate. We were appalled to hear some city council members express disagreement with those long-held American principles." 

 Several community members have reacted in Facebook posts and letters to the city's leadership, as well. 

 "What occurred during the Council's discourse can only be described as a step back in time," Lore Oliver wrote in a letter shared on Facebook. "To a time at which members of the LGBTQ community were viewed as subhuman and sexual deviants. I was appalled as at least one member of the Council compared myself, and those like myself to "perverts." It was also implied that by validating the humanity of LGBTQ people they would somehow be opening the door to "child groomers" and "sex traffickers." 

Other posts show community members who have urged others to contact their city council members, including Ham. Some have called for Ham's resignation.

The statement ended up passing by a 4-3 vote.

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