Evan Huegel is worried about his future in Iowa.
Huegel joined hundreds of Iowans to protest a surge of legislation that state lawmakers are considering this year that targets LGBTQ Iowans and topics in schools on Sunday, bills he says will negatively affect him.
A transgender sophomore at Ankeny High School, Huegel said he faces bullying in school and lack of acceptance from some family members, but proposals to ban gender-affirming care for minors and restrict LGBTQ topics and students in other ways will make things even harder.
“I’m going to stand up and fight this, because I don’t want to live the rest of my school years in misery,” he said. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life in misery. This seriously impacts my future, how I’m going to grow up being a trans guy.”
The recent increase in bills focused on LGBTQ issues in Iowa has made it hard for Huegel to see a future in Iowa. He was considering going to college at the University of Iowa or Iowa State University, but now he’s having second thoughts.
“Now I'm having to look at colleges out of state and be far away from my family, just so that I can be who I am,” Huegel said. “Which I am not looking forward to.”
Several hundred people crowded the west steps of the Iowa State Capitol to protest LGBTQ-related bills lawmakers are considering this year. They held signs that said “trans people belong in Iowa” and referenced the state’s motto — “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain” — and flew rainbow and trans pride flags.
Democratic lawmakers, teachers, LGBTQ organizers and students who spoke at the rally said the bills being advanced by the state’s Republican majority contradict with notions of freedom and liberty they champion in other areas.
“Real liberty is the ability to read what you want,” said Aime Wichtendahl, a Hiawatha City Council member and transgender woman. “Real liberty is having control over your own body. Real liberty is the ability to marry the person you love.”
Lawmakers have advanced bills out of committees this year banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, prohibiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in early grades, requiring school employees to notify parents if they believe a child is transgender, and requiring students to use only bathrooms that align with their biological sex.
Republicans supporting the bills said they are a reaction to concerns brought by constituents and parents, and they give parents more input in their child’s education. On the bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors, Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said last week the lawmakers are taking a cautious approach to the issue, despite advice from medical experts last month to keep health care options in place for transgender youth.
“Part of why we are here where we are today is I was surprised to find out that some of our major health care providers in the state were actually doing this when we inquired about it,” Grassley said, “... So we feel very strongly about our position that we’re taking on this issue.”
Teachers and education advocates said at the rally that the bills that deal with LGBTQ issues in education are “censorship” and restrict the ability of teachers to be a trusted resource for their students.
Under a bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, any school employee would need to notify parents if a student expresses a gender identity different from their biological sex, and schools would need parents’ permission to refer to a student by a different name or set of pronouns. Republicans have said the provisions would give parents information about important decisions their child is making, but some teachers said the bill could put students in harm’s way if their parents do not accept them.
“They prevent educators from fulfilling our important societal role of being trusted, safe adults for all students,” said Stacy Scmidt, a teacher and chair of the Iowa State Education Association’s LGBTQ+ Task Force. “We are often the first adults that young people go to to ask questions about any number of topics.”
A group of students who organized a statewide school walkout last week spoke at the rally, saying they plan to continue to oppose the legislation. The Iowa Queer Student Alliance is hosting another rally in the state Capitol this coming Wednesday, the group said.
“We have shown up time after time and we’re not going away,” said Emma Mitchell, the group’s founder.
SIOUX CITY -- The 2023 Faces of Siouxland Multicultural Fair may have a bit of a Caribbean-inspired reggae beat when its come to the Sioux City Convention Center, 801 Fourth St., from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Comprised of students from Central College, in Pella, Iowa, the Flying Pan Steel Band will make its Multicultural Fair debut with authentic sounds from Trinidad and Tobago as well as few musical ringers.
The band is known to throw in a few random Led Zeppelin and Doobie Brothers tunes while they pound away on industrial-sized drums called steelpans.
The inclusion of the Flying Pan Steel Band came about through a case of circumstantial scheduling, according to Sioux City Human Rights Commission executive director Karen Mackey.
"Someone at the Sioux City Art Center found out that the Central College students were on a tour and passing through town when our multicultural fair was going on," she explained. "As soon as we found that out, we booked them."
So, the Flying Pan Steel Band will join Ballet Folklorico Estrella de Jalisco and the Somali Dance Group in providing entertainment for the multicultural fair that the Human Rights Commission has sponsored for more than 30 years.
"Siouxland is much more diverse than people think," Mackey said. "Our fair celebrates the diversity of our community, through music, the arts and food."
Which is an important way to showcase all of the many faces that make up a community.
Numerous local organizations, agencies and businesses will have informational booths and giveaways for this free event that regularly attracts thousands of people.
There will also be a supervised "Kids Space," for arts, crafts and face-painting.
But Mackey always looks forward to the numerous food stands.
"You can really step outside of your comfort zone by trying food from another culture," she said.
This is the big takeaway for the Multicultural Fair.
"The best way to learn about a nationality is through their culture and how they live their live," Mackey said.
Who knows? You might develop an appreciation for music performed on big steelpan drums.
SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council will be asked Monday to approve a resolution to amend the city's bike facility study to include a trail on the Gordon Drive Viaduct.
City staff are also recommending a trail connection on Cunningham Drive. The council approved the bike facility study on Aug. 8.
According to city documents, the Iowa DOT wants to see an updated bike/pedestrian plan from the city to determine the appropriate accommodation.
City staff have been working with the Iowa DOT on the planned reconstruction of the Gordon Drive Viaduct. The 3,970-foot-long viaduct, built in 1937 and improved in 1963 and 1966, is deteriorating.
The documents state that city staff prefers the single multi-use trail facility over sidewalks on each side of the viaduct, which is "heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists."
"This will allow for ease of access for winter maintenance and accommodate a better bicycle connection along Gordon Drive," the documents state.
City staff and the Active Transportation Advisory Committee created the amendment to the bike facility study to include a trail on the Gordon Drive Viaduct and a trail connection on Cunningham Drive, which would connect to the Riverfront and Chautauqua trails. Last month, the city's Active Transportation Advisory Committee voted to recommend approval of the amendment.
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SELMA, Ala. — President Joe Biden used the searing memories of Selma's “Bloody Sunday” to recommit to a cornerstone of democracy, lionizing a seminal moment from the civil rights movement at a time when he has been unable to push enhanced voting protections through Congress and a conservative Supreme Court has undermined a landmark voting law.
“Selma is a reckoning. The right to vote ... to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty. With it anything's possible,” Biden told a crowd of more than 1,000 people seated on one side of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a reputed Ku Klux Klan leader.
"This fundamental right remains under assault. The conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states and dozens and dozens of anti-voting laws fueled by the ‘Big Lie' and the election deniers now elected to office," he said.
As a candidate in 2020, Biden promised to pursue sweeping legislation to bolster protection of voting rights. Two years ago, his 2021 legislation, named after civil right leader John Lewis, the late Georgia congressman, included provisions to restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to bankroll political causes anonymously.
It passed the then-Democratic-controlled House, but it failed to draw the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate even under control of Biden's party. With Republicans now in control of the House, passage of such legislation is highly unlikely.
“We know we must get the votes in Congress,” Biden said, but there seems no viable path right now.
The visit to Selma was a chance for Biden to speak directly to the current generation of civil rights activists. Many feel let down because of the lack of progress on voting rights and they are eager to see his administration keep the issue in the spotlight.
Few moments have had as lasting importance to the civil rights movement as what happened on March 7, 1965, in Selma and in the weeks that followed.
Some 600 peaceful demonstrators led by Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams gathered that day, just weeks after the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by an Alabama trooper.
Lewis and the others were brutally beaten by Alabama troopers and sheriff’s deputies as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge at the start of what was supposed to be a 54-mile walk to the state Capitol in Montgomery as part of a larger effort to register Black voters in the South.
“On this bridge, blood was given to help redeem the soul of America,” Biden said.
The images of the police violence sparked outrage across the country. Days later, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led what became known as the “Turnaround Tuesday” march, in which marchers approached a wall of police at the bridge and prayed before turning back.
President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eight days after “Bloody Sunday,” calling Selma one of those rare moments in American history where “history and fate meet at a single time.” On March 21, King began a third march, under federal protection, that grew by thousands by the time they arrived at the state Capitol. Five months later, Johnson signed the bill into law.
This year’s commemoration came as the historic city of roughly 18,000 was still digging out from the aftermath of a January EF-2 tornado that destroyed or damaged thousands of properties in and around Selma. The scars of that storm were still evident Sunday. Blocks from the stage where Biden spoke, houses sat crumbled or without roofs. Orange spray paint marked buildings beyond salvage with instructions to “tear down.”
“We remain Selma strong,” Mayor James Perkins said, adding that “we will build back better.” He thanked Biden for approving a disaster declaration that helped the small city with the cost of debris cleanup and removal.
Before Biden's visit, the Rev. William Barber II, a co-chair of Poor People’s Campaign, and six other activists wrote Biden and members of Congress to express their frustration with the lack of progress on voting rights legislation. They urged Washington politicians visiting Selma not to sully the memories of Lewis and Williams and other civil rights activists with empty platitudes.
“We’re saying to President Biden, let’s frame this to America as a moral issue, and let’s show how it effects everybody,” Barber said in an interview.
Among those sharing the stage with Biden before the march across the bridge were Barber, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Water bottles were passed out to some in the crowd gathered to hear Biden and at least one person was taken away on a stretcher because of the upper-70s heat. Some had waited hours in the sun before relief came from shadows cast from nearby building.
Delores Gresham, 65, a retired health care worker from Birmingham, arrived four hours early, grabbing a front-row spot so her grandchildren could hear the president and see the commemoration.
“I want them to know what happened here,” she said.
In his remarks, Biden said, “Everyone should know the truth of Selma.”
Stacker examined how voting rights have evolved in America, how much has been accomplished, and how much remains to be done.