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Trump Administration Demanded 4-H Stop Protecting LGBTQ Youth

Sonny Perdue

An Iowa director got fired for demanding 4-H ignore alt-right demands and welcome all members. 

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue successfully demanded the national 4-H youth organization rescind a welcoming policy for LGBTQ youth, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Iowa newspaper reports the 6 million-member group, best known for teaching children about agriculture, released new guidelines aimed at making sure all youth feel safe, a goal that drew sharp opposition in the conservative farming communities of America.

Within days of the new guidelines being published, staffers from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's office demanded the welcoming language be rescinded.

Former National Institute of Food and Agriculture director Sonny Ramaswamy told the Register he sent urgent demands to Iowa and New York chapters that the guidelines disappear. NIFA administers the 4-H program.

That drew pushback from John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, director of Iowa's 4-H program and a "fierce advocate of the LGBT policy," according to the newspaper. But he was ultimately fired from his post.

The Iowa State University department that administers 4-H received a number of emails supporting the policy, including from former 4-H members who identity as LGBTQ.

But the newspaper reports other emails that describe the welcoming policy as a "fascist push to redefine humanity."

After alt-right website WorldNetDaily -- best known as the chief promulgator of "birther" conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama -- published an article questioning if the LGBTQ welcoming guidelines would make 4-H the "next victim of 'LGBT' child assault," pressure increased on Chaisson-Cardenas, but he stood by the new guidelines.

"I guess I am not sure why we are valuing the propaganda machine of a recognized hate group over the existing rights of LGBTQ youth?," Chaisson-Cardenas asked, according to the newspaper.

As a congressionally authorized youth program, 4-H must follow federal civil rights guides. There have been concerted efforts since the early 1990s to improve diversity in the organization, which thrived primarily in white, agrarian communities.

Since 2015, program leaders looked for ways to address the needs of LGBTQ youth and formed a working group in 2016 to look at policy in that arena specifically.

As long ago as 2012, groups like GLAAD praised 4-H for leading the way on diversity.

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