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Antigay Leader: No Role in 'Health Crisis' Panels

Antigay Leader: No Role in 'Health Crisis' Panels


Bob Vander Plaats, a leader of the effort to roll back marriage equality in Iowa, has denied any connection to seminars that portray homosexuality as a public health hazard, but his website continues to promote them, The Iowa Independentreports.

Vander Plaats was asked about the seminars during a press conference Monday in Iowa City with former Minnesota governor and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Vander Plaats, who ran for Iowa governor in the primaries last year, is touring the state to promote Family Leader, his new umbrella organization for several groups working for conservative causes, including the repeal of marriage rights for gay couples.

Family Leader's website has promoted the seminars, called "The Second-Hand Effects of Same-Sex 'Marriage'" and provided links to information about them, as indicated by a screen capture published by the Independent. The site for the seminars,, says the sessions will expose "the public health crisis of same-sex activity" and also "how same-sex 'marriage' threatens religious liberty."

According to the Independent, the sponsors of the seminars have also said gay sex is more of a health hazard than smoking. A reporter at the press conference asked Vander Plaats if he agreed with that conclusion. He responded, "I want to listen again to the premise of this question, because I don't believe we've held any conferences on smoking." He said Family Leader has had no role in the seminar series and pledged to look into the website link. He added that the program perhaps "was something done earlier" by the Iowa Family Policy Center, one of the groups under Family Leader's umbrella.

A visit by The Advocate to the Family Leader website Tuesday found a slightly different design than that in the Independent's screen capture, but information on the seminars was available with a few clicks through links to the Iowa Family Policy Center and its Pastors' Resource Network. Also, on the Family Leader home page, there is a link to a press release issued last year by Chuck Hurley, head of the Iowa Family Policy Center, in which Hurley said, "The secondhand impacts of certain homosexual acts are arguably more destructive, and potentially more costly to society than smoking." Hurley added that the Iowa supreme court ruling that brought marriage equality to the state in 2009 amounted to "sanctioning self destructive behavior."

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