An antigay Iowa lawmaker who’s convened an investigation of an LGBT youth conference is not amused at the suggestion that he and a male colleague are lovers.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who called for the investigation because of reports that the most recent Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth exposed teenagers to sexually explicit material, said Wednesday that an email correspondent had claimed he and Rep. Greg Heartsill, whom Kaufmann appointed to investigate the conference, are romantically involved.
“I am here to announce that Rep. Heartsill and I are not in a homosexual relationship,” Kaufmann told the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee, The Des Moines Register reports. Both legislators are Republicans with antigay records.
He objected to other responses to the investigation as well, saying, “I am getting sick of reading all the crap that is on the blogs.”
Kaufmann, who chairs the oversight committee, had initially planned to have the committee hold a hearing on the conference, but scaled back that plan in favor of having a two-person, bipartisan panel look into it. Rep. Phyllis Thede is the Democrat he appointed to the panel.
Despite its name, the conference, held annually by Iowa Safe Schools, receives no state funding. But some school districts may pay for students or teachers to attend, so Kaufmann has framed the investigation as centering on misuse of local taxpayer funds.
Family Leader, an antigay Iowa organization, released a report last year from an anonymous attendee at the conference, claiming that sessions contained inappropriate, highly sexual material that should not be available to minors without parental permission. Iowa Safe Schools and supporters of the conference have called the investigation a “witch hunt” and said the Family Leader report was misleading and sensationalized, although some sessions do cover sexual health.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Heartsill said he’d received a letter from a teacher who is a self-described LGBT ally but found some of the conference’s content offensive. Her letter, he said, asserted that a comedian had discussed how to use the Internet to find orgies, that one presenter had given advice on sexual bondage, and that drag performer Miss Coco Peru sang about killing antigay bullies.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” Heartsill said, according to the Register. He added, “There is no reason to question the credibility and truthfulness of this statement.”
Kaufmann said he’s convinced that some material at the conference was inappropriate, although he thinks the event should go on. But Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat on the oversight committee, questioned the purpose of the investigation.
“I don’t understand why we are doing this and I don’t understand what the end game is,” she said. People who have been helped by attending the conference should contact Kaufmann, she added. But he replied that even “if 20 million people write us letters saying that this conference is the best thing since sliced bread,” that wouldn’t make the sexual content acceptable.
Wolfe also said Kaufmann shouldn’t take such umbrage at online postings about him, as all legislators have to deal with public opinion. Nathan Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, noted that he has had to put up with hate mail about the conference, and it dismayed him that Kaufmann found the suggestion of being in a gay relationship so upsetting.
“That was just really painful to hear, because LGBTQ kids are made fun of constantly, and I would expect more from our legislators,” Monson told the Register.
This year’s conference, the 11th annual one, is set for April 29 in Des Moines.