Iowa Republican: I don't have to know what "LGBTQ" means to know that I'm against it

Republican State Rep. Greg Heartsill worries that support materials for queer youth are "obscene"

Published May 29, 2015 5:39PM (EDT)

An Iowa state legislator who has essentially been on a crusade to promote stigma among LGBTQ youth admitted last week that he doesn't actually know what "LGBTQ" means.

State Rep. Greg Heartsill was an avid proponent of an amendment that got tacked onto an appropriations bill last week, which would require written consent from parents or guardians for students to participate in any course relating to "human growth and development." The measure essentially turns public school sex education into an "opt in" situation (as opposed to opt out at parents' request), but goes well beyond that. In addition to addressing sexual health in schools, the amendment also limits students' ability to participate in conferences related to sexual health and development -- including the annual Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth.

Heartsill came out against the governor's conference in particular, claiming parents had been "shocked" by "obscene material" that appeared at the event in the past, according to Think Progress. But when pressed by Democratic Rep. Chris Hall to elaborate -- or to acknowledge what the LGBTQ acronym stands for -- the Republican lawmaker was at a loss.

Iowa Starting Line posted a transcript of the exchange between Hall and Heartsill:

Hall: “Is there a particular conference that you’re referencing?”

Heartsill: “I think there was a conference here about a month ago where there was some obscene material that was presented to minor children, and not only were parents shocked at the material, but also administrators and teachers as well. ”

Hall: “What was the name of that conference?”

Heartsill: “Uh, the Governor’s conference on LGBTQ youth.”

Hall: “And what’s that acronym short for?”

Heartsill: “Pardon me?”

Hall: “Does that acronym stand for something?”

Heartsill: “Uh, I believe it does, but I think it varies from one, you know, one group to the next. I don’t know what all the… I don’t know… do you have the acronym?”

As Think Progress reports, Heartsill's ignorance didn't stop him from continuing to single out the conference or queer youth:

Despite not understanding the basic premise of the conference, Heartsill has now embarked on a quest to understand just who participated in it in apparent hopes of blocking public funds from being used in future years. He has sent a letter to all of Iowa’s school superintendents requesting information about how many faculty, staff, and students attended the 2015 conference last month and whether the schools covered any of the costs of attending, including transporation. His letter expresses concern that “students were subjected to sexually graphic and obscene presentations” and that “the closing speaker made frequent use of profanity during his presentation and even suggested that students vandalize the property of those who might disagree with their views,” refering to a performance by drag queen Coco Peru.

Heartsill's attitude seems to reflect a larger insensitivity to the challenges faced by Iowa's LGBTQ youth within the state legislature: After debate over the human growth and development amendment, the Iowa House of Representatives voted down an anti-bullying measure that would have expanded resources for bullying prevention.

By Jenny Kutner

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Anti-bullying Anti-lgbt Bigots Bullying Greg Heartsill Iowa Lgbtq Lgbtq Rights Lgbtq Youth