SIOUX CITY | Councilwoman Rhonda Capron told Aaron Rochester on Monday she will not vote to seat him on the city’s Human Rights Commission because she believes he would be a lightning rod for controversy.
“People on the Human Rights Commission would have a problem with you being on there,” she said during Rochester’s interview for a term on the 11-member board. “There’s that kind of animosity there. I don’t know how you’re going to fix it.”
Rochester, a former councilman who lost his bid for a second term in the October primary election, has criticized the commission for its support of gays and other groups. During his term on the council, he complained that some on the board discriminated against commissioners who held conservative Christian beliefs, a view he reiterated Monday.
During his presentation explaining why he wants to be on the commission, he told the council, "My house and my car were 'egged' after I announced I was going to apply for this."
He said he wanted to serve on the commission to make sure all people, not only certain groups, are protected from bias.
He cited use of a federal grant to hold fair housing workshops specifically for the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community. That grant also paid for workshops for other groups and programs.
Frank LaMere, an advocate for Native Americans and director of the Four Seasons Directions Center, said a number of non-Native people attended the workshop at his agency. The fair housing workshop benefits low-income people and minorities because they learn their rights, he said.
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Councilman Tom Padgett asked Rochester if he had a problem with people who had a different sexual orientation. During his council term, Rochester cast the lone vote against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the local human rights ordinance to mirror state law.
“I don’t have a problem with sexual orientation,” Rochester replied. “Let’s just tell people what the state law says and don’t promote gay-pride things.”
In 2011, the commission provided a table with informational fliers at a gay-pride picnic.
Councilman Keith Radig defended his former colleague, saying, "There’s a huge difference between (gay marriage) and saying that gay people can’t have an apartment.”
Diane Riley of North Sioux City, who said she served two tours in Vietnam, said that as a transgender person she would like all commissioners to support sexual orientation as a protected class. And Beth Hulett, of Sioux City, claimed that Rochester was promoting his own agenda.
The council has 10 more applicants to interview.