Gay Iowa lawyer denied state school board post
April 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
Iowa lawmakers blocked the nomination of an openly gay lawyer to the state school board on Tuesday, ending two days of heated debate in which some Republicans expressed fear that he would promote a "gay agenda." One Democratic senator denounced the vote as "clearly discriminatory." "We have the most qualified candidate that we have ever had," said Sen. Matt McCoy. "Yet he is being taken apart by rumor, innuendo, hatred, and bigotry, and a sense that he's not good enough to serve Iowa because he has a different sexual orientation."
Jonathan Wilson was appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, to serve on the board. Wilson served on the school board in Des Moines for 12 years but lost reelection in 1995 after publicly announcing earlier in the year that he is gay. GOP senator Nancy Boettger said she received several letters from voters opposing Wilson's appointment. Other Republicans questioned his qualifications and whether he could move Iowa's educational system forward. "I have heard from more people than I have ever heard from about a confirmation," said Boettger, chairman of the senate education committee. "They don't want any hint of pushing the gay lifestyle through our school system."
Wilson needed two thirds of the vote, or 34 votes, to be confirmed. He received 22. "It's a sad day for the state of Iowa," Wilson said. "It sends the wrong message to gay and lesbian citizens." Republican senator Neal Schuerer said Wilson's views on education were the issue, not his sexual orientation. "It's time now that we look to leaders who will make a difference. We don't need someone who's spent time traveling over the country promoting an education agenda that hasn't worked for Iowa," Schuerer said.