In response to a rash of recent news reports about young gay people committing suicide because of harassment, the Family Research Council will begin a nearly week-long tour through Iowa on Oct. 25 in support of the American Family Association's Iowa For Freedom campaign to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices. The justices were a part of an April 2009 unanimous decision overturning a state ban on same-sex marriage.
Bob Vander Plaats, head of Iowa For Freedom, maintains their campaign is about the high court overstepping its constitutional bounds, not about traditional marriage.
Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt and a close friend of Harvey Milk, visited Iowa in October along with Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, to help raise money for One Iowa, in its efforts to combat Iowa For Freedom. One Iowa plans to mount counter protests following the Family Research Council's bus tour.
Jones told the Huffington Post despite the attention from the media to bullying of the gay community, it's a decades-old epidemic.
"These suicides happened to be publicized but it's my strong belief young people are taking their lives every week and probably every day in this country," Jones said. "It's something I certainly endured as a child.
"In the battle for LGBT rights it's often thought of as a political struggle--and it is--but it's a very personal struggle. And these stories of these young people who ended their lives; what you see are the consequences of second class citizenship, and every time politicians fail to live up to the united states constitution promise of full equality, every time we agree to comprises or delays we're really undermining our own humanity."
Jones said the battle happening in Iowa matters a great deal. He often cites states like Iowa and Massachusetts, and doubts the campaigns to "turn back the clock on civil rights" will be successful.
Jacobs led the fight against Proposition 8 in 2008, a vote to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages in the state of California, although a judge overturned the decision earlier in 2010.
While the campaigns in Iowa claim it's about the constitutional role of the judicial branch, Jacobs explained there are greater after effects.
"When people from out of state like the National Organization for Marriage pump lots of money in to tell people that they're less than equal," Jacobs said. "It leads to suicide it's just that simple, there's a cause and an effect."
Jacobs said it's "magical" Iowa beat California and had equality before they did on the west coast.
"I think, in a certain way, it's more significant than if California had gotten there first--no body expected it," Jacobs said.
Jacob Wilson, an openly gay junior at Iowa State University, testified before Congress in September concerning a new report about the safety of LGBT students on college campuses, which found only seven percent of institutions provide resources for those students. He said his political philosophy echoes a statement by Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Penn); 'Vote as if your life depended on it,' because he said it literally might.
"The work's never done and one day my goal is to have equal protection under the law, as it is for all Americans--and that's attainable," Wilson said, although he admits homophobia, like racism, will likely linger despite advancements.
"I think people just want to be full Americans, that's all," Jacobs proclaimed. "They don't want anything more and they don't want anything less."
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