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civil rights

Iowa City Pride Parade Today

one iowa
Saturday, June 21, join us in the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City and check out all the cool stuff we have to offer. Buttons, stickers, Equality T-shirts and more! You won’t want to miss it.

Here are the details:

iowa city pride

Cable Merger And The Commons

hope for the internetA couple of weeks ago a federal court said that the FCC had dropped the ball on net neutrality, thus those who own the gateway to the internet could do what they wish to do in controlling access. Immediately the alarm bells started ringing around the country. In a world where the news media is owned by increasingly right wing companies, the internet has acted much like the printing press in the backroom did during our revolution. No matter what the British tried to do they could not stop the flow of information because every time they took out a printing press another popped up to take its place.

Thus since its inception the internet has acted as a conduit for information not approved by the powers that be whether they be business interests or government officials. This is do in the most part to the fact that until this recent ruling the internet was operated under the concept of ‘neutrality.’ That is that all content was equally accessible no matter what it was.

We saw what that availability can do last Saturday as 100,000 North Carolinians showed up at the state capitol to join in a “moral Monday” protest against the state government despite a near total blackout from the main stream media which did not approve of this protest. Information passed among potential protestors turned this into a major event. However, it was not major enough for the main stream to even do stories on on the protest. Much like the protests around the world when Bushco invaded Iraq, the media pretended it didn’t happen. But as happened with the Iraq protests, stories of the protest in Raleigh were soon filling in the gigantic holes left by the media.

The immediate question that should be raised in every citizens mind is whether any company or companies should be able to control access to the internet either by individuals or groups. Should access be premised on some set of beliefs or more likely how much money a person has? Businesses and civil liberties groups in the US decry controls on the internet in totalitarian states like China or Burma. Yet we are about to let business perform the same function in the US that we condemn from governments in other countries.

Now as if to stick their proverbial thumb in our eyes, cable companies Comcast and Time-Warner have declared their intention to wed. Part of what they want as a wedding present is controlling access to the internet for about half of America. Another gift on their wish list is to control your access to their approved news, thus the number of news sources will go down one as NBC and CNN will come under the same umbrella. As an aside, this does prove that what Mitt Romney said at the Iowa State Fair is true. “Corporations are people, my friends.” Yep and they marry and register for gifts.

Should the internet be treated as a commonly held utility with availability to all as it is in most western countries? The US is way behind the rest of the world in accessibility and speed. In countries like Japan and France internet speeds are a hundred times faster and the costs often less than half what we pay. The biggest reason that their internet is held in common is so that businesses can have access to the information super highway.

Having access to a robust and open information super highway is every bit as important to businesses as open highways and open ports are.Putting control of both access and content on the internet by corporations seems to be a major backward step. Backward steps seem to be the way to go in the US these days as more and more people reject science and accept religion. While the US looks to put new brakes on what will be the major tool of business in the future, competitors around the world are looking to speed up and open up. Notice that I am not even going to argue the civil liberties aspects of the internet since the damage this direction can do to business should be scary enough to get Americans lining up to say “don’t turn the internet over to corporations!”

And the internet situation should makes us want to pause and question what other aspects of life should be held by the country as something which the American people hold in common. Is the health care system something which should include all Americans and thus be held in common? I would argue so just from the aspect of controlling disease. We will continue to have more exotic diseases that will be near impossible to control if a quarter of our populace is unable to access the health care system.

Should education continue to be a system that requires some level of attainment for all our citizens or should it be a system open to those who can afford to send their children to schools?

What about the very basics of life – should the air be clean enough to breathe and the water clean enough to drink? What about basic heat and electricity? If a person has little money, should they be cut off from these basics.

Was this country founded to serve the rich? Or was it founded for our mutual help and defense?

Best Wishes From Martin Luther King, Jr.

mlk book strive toward freedomThis is a remarkable story of a young college student’s personal encounter with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Iowa State Teachers College (now UNI) in Cedar Falls during the fall of 1958.   Posted here with permission.

by Harold H. Hensel

Many of my family and friends have heard this story many times before but there are new friends on Facebook that haven’t heard it. Plus, I like remembering it. So here goes.

I was urged by my freshman humanities teacher, Dr. Lang, to go to the convocation. I didn’t know what a convocation was but I went anyway. It was a speech at the Commons. About 600 students were there. I thought it was a powerful speech. The speaker said he would be at the book store afterwards. I didn’t think I would get close but I went anyway.

There were three other students there and they left. So there I was with the speaker by myself. I bought his book. He had a PHD and he started asking me questions! He wanted to know why the audience did not respond to his message. We talked about it for about twenty minutes.

I had been viciously hazed during my freshman and sophomore year of high school by the school bully and his buddies. One of them came at me with a baseball bat one time and fully intended to hit me with it. I grabbed the bat as it came down and stepped aside. The bully fell to the ground and I had the bat raised in my hand. All I had to do was bring it down and the bully would have been seriously injured. I thought it was not worth getting myself in trouble and decided against it.

I suggested that the audience in Iowa had not been discriminated against and there was a difference between understanding discrimination intellectually and emotionally. The speaker said that must be it. He signed my book, Martin L King, Jr .

When I left, I considered myself a member of the civil rights movement. I got away from the bullies when they left school. I couldn’t imagine not being able to get away from the sting of discrimination because of my skin color. And advocating non-violence was really courageous.

If Dr. King was alive today and you met him, I am sure he would wish you “Best Wishes” as well.

mlk best wishes

Quad City Fed Notes Civil Rights March Anniversary

March_on_Washington_1963_smallA note from the Quad City Federation of Labor:

Brothers and Sisters,

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, communities across the country, and indeed across the world, will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C.

The historic march has been called  many names over the years, but the original name was the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” and  these were the original demands of the marchers.

-Meaningful Civil Rights Laws

-Massive Federal Works Program

-Full and Fair Employment

-Decent Housing

-The Right to Vote

-Adequate Integrated Education

The nature of the demands that the marchers had then are very similar to the list of values and issues that the Labor Movement and our coalition partners continue to fight for today.

Locally, Organizing for Action, led by Coalition member Kevin Perkins, is putting together an event to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, and reaffirm our commitment to finishing the work that he and the Civil Right’s movement set out to accomplish 50 years ago. Numerous Community Coalition partners have placed their name on this event too in solidarity with the spirit of the anniversary.

Please download and distribute the attached flyer far and wide. Upload the attached JPEG photo to your Facebook and other social media pages.

How many members can your local contribute to this historic anniversary? Come on, give us everything you got– and don’t forget to showcase your local’s pride by wearing your union T-shirt and other gear.

Who: Quad Cities Community

What: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech

Where: Lafayette Park (4th St and Gaines) Davenport, IA

Time: 2:30pm

Flyer: See attached

In Solidarity,

Joshua Schipp

Voting Rights and the March on Washington

(Editor’s Note: Ari Berman is a friend of Blog for Iowa, and he passed along this note which may be of interest to readers).

Dear Friends,

I wanted to pass on a few timely new stories that I thought would be of interest:

The legal challenges to North Carolina’s sweeping new voting restrictions

The key factors that will decide the fate of voting rights in NC and nationally

And a new story in the latest issue of The Nation about the importance of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on contemporary civil rights organizing. As I write in the new piece, “so many of the issues that gave rise to the March on Washington fifty years ago remain unfulfilled or under siege today.”

Thanks for reading


DoD Announces Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

Aug. 14, 2013

DOD Announces Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Today, the Department of Defense announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

After a review of the department’s benefit policies following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate.

The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision.  Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted.  For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry.  That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur.  This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.

Read the implementation memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel online as well as further guidance on extending benefits to same-sex spouses of military members from Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.

Senator Dennis Guth Goes On Anti-Gay Tirade

State Senator Dennis Guth Republican District 4

State Senator Dennis Guth – Republican District 4

[Note from BFIA:  We don’t know about you, but we’ve had just about enough of the stupid party. Please respond to this Action Alert from OneIowa.]

Today at the beginning of the Iowa Senate workday, Senator Dennis Guth of Klemme took advantage of “points of personal privilege” to make horrific comments about the LGBT community, describing how he feels he and his family have been hurt and how civilizations have fallen by what he describes as the “homosexual lifestyle.” Not only did Sen. Guth dismiss the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a “lifestyle,” he then went on to say that it was “a lie.”

In a vitriolic rant, Senator Guth spread lies and ignorance at the Iowa State Capitol today:

“There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase of sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites. For example, there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth.”

Please donate $100 today to help us fight back against these ignorant and dangerous lies.

Senator Guth, how dare you?  How dare you denigrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of Iowa? How dare you hurt our family and friends with your public tirade? How dare you perpetrate the myths and the misinformation that have fueled the discrimination, prejudice and hostility that has for so long impacted our community?

Iowa has stood as a beacon of justice and fairness as the third state in the nation to embrace marriage equality. More than 6,000 gay and lesbian couples have been married in our state. We live here, we work, we pay our taxes, we VOTE, we raise our families, we go to church and we contribute a great deal to our neighborhoods and communities.

And, Senator Guth, today you chose to infect the business of the legislature with your painful and homophobic rant. Shame on you, Senator Guth! Shame on you!

Please call or email Senator Guth today and tell him that your family is not “a lie.” Demand an apology for his remarks and urge him to represent ALL of his constituents.

Senator Guth’s diatribe reminds us that even though we celebrate the freedom to marry in Iowa, even though we move equality forward every day, even though the world is changing and we are winning–we must remain vigilant. We must continue to use our voices and our stories to change hearts and minds. We must never forget where we came from or where we are going. As long as there is one person in Iowa who carries such fear and ignorance, our job is not over.

Please contribute $100 today to ensure that our fight against these attacks continues. One Iowa will not rest until despicable comments like these from our public servants are no longer accepted.

But we’re not the only people speaking out against Senator Guth’s shameful comments.

Married couple Heather Yeoman and Rachel Olson, Lake Mills residents, responded:

“It is clear that Senator Guth, our so-called ‘representative’ does not value our family nor the love and commitment we have for one another. I am disgusted and ashamed of my Senator for spreading such ignorant and hurtful lies about our family and countless other Iowa families. Make no mistake, Senator—our marriage and our love is not a lie.”

Joy M. Newcom, District 4 resident from Forest City, responded:

“As an Iowan, a former educator and a mother, I am ashamed of my Senator and his horrific comments about the LGBT community. LGBT people are a part of my extended family. They are my friends and have been my coworkers. They are students I have taught and continue to respect for the manner in which they live their lives today. These comments, parroted from erroneous ideology from anti-gay groups, are beyond outrageous. They are dangerous lies.

Senator Guth, we, the Newcom family, are your constituents and your fellow Iowans. You claim to be our public servant, but you are hurting our community by spreading lies posed as science. You are breeding a culture of injustice for people we live with and work alongside. Please stop. You were not elected to legislate your morality or to spread falsehoods.”

So we ask you to please take action today. Stand up for Heather and Rachel and the Newcom Family. They deserve a state Senator who doesn’t attack his constituents, but rather embraces all families.

Is that too much to ask?

Thank you,
Donna Red Wing
One Iowa Executive Director

Our Liberties We Prize And Our Rights We Will Maintain

MLKToday marks both the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court Varnum v. Brien decision.

These are the words of Dr. King one day before he was killed by an assassin.

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

Four years ago today the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Mark S. Cady:

“‘Our responsibility, however, is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.’

The Court noted that Iowa has a long history of progressive thought on civil rights. Seventeen years before the Dred Scott decision, the Iowa Supreme Court “refused to treat a human being as property to enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and conditions.” Eighty-six years before “separate but equal” was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled such practices unconstitutional in Iowa. In 1869, Iowa was the first state in the union to admit women to the bar and allow them to practice law.”

Today, Iowans can be proud that our state has advanced the cause of equality for Iowa and the nation.

Iowa flag



Save The UI Center For Human Rights

From the Physicians For Social Responsibility – Iowa Chapter website:

Save the UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) Campaign

The University of Iowa plans to close the a decision made without input from UI students, faculty, and the state-wide Iowa community.

Over more that the last decade, Iowa PSR and UICHR have been key allies in a number of joint educational programs.

Iowa PSR will help organize a full page Signature Ad in local newspapers to oppose dissolution of the UICHR.

The date of publication will be International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2012.  We need your donations now help publish the Ad.

Go here to

  • donate online or by check
  • sign on, to the Ad
  • provide a quote that may be used in the Ad
  • read more about the UICHR
  • email UI President & Provost
  • contact UICHR

More on the Campaign

December 10th marks the 64th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the end of World War II.  The UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) has worked tirelessly for over 12 years to advance recognition and understanding of, and  support for human rights and social justice across Iowa.  But now the University seeks to close the Center.  This is a dangerous proposal.

Over its lifetime, the UICHR has had a role in countless events in Iowa City, around the state and world, having to do with social justice and human rights.  The UICHR has been a strong partner for PSR, the UNA, Veterans for Peace, many student organizations, as well as for Johnson County and Iowa City officials, and many, many others all across Iowa. Together we promoted the rights of future generations to a healthy, life-supporting environment, the rights of women, workers, and immigrants, and addressed the perils of widening inequality, social injustice, and violence. Together our voices and impacts have been stronger and more effective.

Yet, the status of human rights around the world and here in the US remain perilously fragile. Outside the Center, public discourse and interactions are increasingly influenced by those who would commoditize every human encounter or endeavor; media sources too often promote violence over understanding and respect, divide rather than join people in shared aspirations.  The voices and influence of people like those working in the Center provide a counter weight to this coarsening of our humanity.  We cannot afford to loose them.

The UICHR Board and Staff want to make sure that everyone in the area and across the state is aware of the impending closure of the Center and what it’s loss would mean to the wider community.

(click here to find out more)


Dragged “Kicking and Screaming”

Guest opinion by Larry Hodgden today. Larry wrote this for Independence Day.

Larry is a retired Viet Nam era veteran of the USAF. He and his wife of 40 years, Sharon, have three children and seven grandchildren who keep him very busy. Family, education, church and politics have been a lifelong passion.

As we celebrate another 4th of July, the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, we should remember that one out of every five colonists was opposed to the war and in fact 30,000 of them fought against the Revolutionary Army. You could say those dissenters had to be “dragged, kicking and screaming” to freedom from tyranny.

In fact our history is one of resistance to change and progress. It took a bloody Civil War to convince the south and some northern sympathizers that slavery was wrong. It took fifty years for women, led by Susan B. Anthony, to finally get the right to vote. It took thousands of deaths and riots before workers won the rights to humane working conditions, fair wages and to organize.

More recently it took the National Guard to enforce equal education for all in Mississippi and many lives were lost marching and fighting for the right to vote and for equal rights for all people throughout the south in the 1960s.

It should come as no surprise to us then that we still have a segment of our public which has dug in their heels against social progress. Nearly every advancement in the last 100 years has been opposed by the Republican Party and now, under Romney/Ryan, they would end Medicare, privatize Social Security and repeal any improvements made in health care and equal rights for women and minorities.

At every sign of progress and in spite of overwhelming support by the general public, the Republicans stand in the way while we wait for some positive ideas from them which would move this country forward. How can they justify the harm their plans would do to seniors, children, students, minorities and the disabled? Maybe more importantly, how can you justify your support for these plans?

I encourage you, your family, and your friends to support the democratic ideals as outlined by the Democratic Party. I urge you to fight for the rights of every American as clearly established in our Constitution and as most of us understand to be our responsibility to care for our fellow humans. Together we can and will prevail, however difficult, because sooner rather than later, the Republican Party must be “Dragged, Kicking and Screaming” into the 21st Century.