Editor’s Note: Story has been updated with a statement from Ottumwa Pride.
Ottumwa mayoral candidate Rick Bick compared the LGBTQ community to pedophiles when questioned about whether he’d approve permits for things like gay pride events.
Bick made the remark Monday during a candidate forum put on the League of Women Voters of Ottumwa. Bick and his opponent, Rick Johnson, were asked “would you support proclamations and permits for LGBTQ events such as Pride Month or Pride Block parties?”
Ottumwa Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, held a block party in the Wapello County community of about 25,000 in August. Additionally, the Ottumwa City Council approved a Pride Month proclamation in June.
Johnson, who was appointed to the Ottumwa City Council in August after retiring from a local community health center, said he supported Pride events. He also noted the city’s comprehensive plan prioritized diversity and that included the LGBTQ community.
“We need to look upon that group of people just like we would all the other ethnic and minority groups in Ottumwa because they have a value that they can bring to our community and I think we need to embrace all of our ethnic groups in the community,” Johnson said.
Bick, whose campaign slogan is “Unity in the Community,” disagreed. The pastor of New Life Center and chaplain of the Ottumwa Police Department said he doesn’t consider the LGBTQ community a “people group” in the same way as Asians and Latinos since they are categorized by sexuality and not race, which is how he said the city’s diversity plan categorized individual groups.
“If you pick this sexual group, what about the pedophile group? Are you going to give them special preference—well, I won’t go any farther because I could say other things I dealt with as a minister,” Bick said. “To me, it’s a sexual preference group; not a race or ethnicity.”
One Iowa Action, a statewide LGTBQ advocacy organization, admonished Bick’s remarks in a Facebook post. The group also noted it would be illegal under the First Amendment for him to deny such permits.
“LGBTQ people aren’t asking for special treatment, they’re asking for EQUAL treatment,” One Iowa Action wrote. “We unequivocally condemn Mr. Bick’s comments and his offensive, inaccurate comparison to child sexual predators.”
Bick is not the only anti-LGTBQ candidate up for election on Nov. 2.
Matt Pringle, who is one of nine candidates running to fill three open council seats, also said he would not support anything Pride-related. Pringle, the pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church outside Centerville, made his remarks after one of his opponents, Sandra Pope, said she supports all groups.
“What Sandra just said is not quite the same,” Pringle said. “When celebrating a minority group, we must maintain absolute scientific, biological genetics and not behavioral choices. Many Ottumwa citizens were disappointed in the city council’s decision this past June.”
The organizers behind Ottumwa Pride said they won’t let hate deter them from continuing to put on events.
“Ottumwa Pride would like to take this moment to reassure all LGBTQ+ individuals and allies that the work of building a more inclusive Ottumwa, one that recognizes and celebrates the equal dignity of our community, won’t be stopped, slowed, or cowed by the death throes of a bygone bigotry,” the group said.
“On the contrary, given the overwhelmingly positive reception of the Ottumwa Pride Block Party, we are organizing earlier and going bigger.”
by Ty Rushing