A Fairfield city official went on a conspiracy-theory fueled tangent at Monday’s city council meeting after the city was asked to approve a statement of intent supporting diversity and equity.
The statement would not be legally enforceable and was drafted by the city’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee; however, councilperson Judy Ham opposed it and sparked a lengthy discussion filled with unverified claims and homophobia.
During a nearly seven-minute-long uninterrupted rant, Ham equated the statement to exposing children to sexual content, alluded to anti-LGBTQ viewpoints and the consequences for people who hold those views, and correlated DEI with sex trafficking.
“They are getting kids ready to be groomed and they are grooming them on a daily basis and it’s very, very perverted,” Ham said. “Say ‘no.’ That is my motion, ‘no.’ It gets ripped in half and we say ‘no’ as a whole city ‘no.’ That’s my motion.”
Councilperson Paul Gandy, who was conducting the meeting, asked Ham to clarify her motion so that it was worded in a way the council could take action on it.
Gandy then read the 177-word statement, which could be summarized as the city welcoming and supporting diversity and that it stands against discrimination based on age, ability, faith, gender, immigration status, military status, nationality, and sexual orientation.
The full statement is attached to the bottom of this article.
“I fail to see how this is advocating sexual trafficking,” Gandy told Ham.
“Because, you do not understand the process of grooming,” Ham said.
When Gandy tried to follow up, Ham interjected to again tell him he doesn’t understand grooming. Ham went on to define grooming—but still provided no context or correlation as to how it related to the DEI statement.
“Grooming is when an adult knows they are exposing a child to things beyond their understanding and taking advantage of that in a friendly manner,” Ham said. “When people in authority over them—and that can include someone that they just admire—is exposing them to things that are beyond their developmental ability to comprehend what they are seeing, hearing, and to process it and know what it is.”
Councilmember Tom Twohill chimed in to tell Ham he didn’t disagree with anything she said but asked what specific language did she find in the statement that encouraged sexual trafficking.
“Why should anybody’s language be policed,” she said in response. “The stuff that we got from DEI was that that’s one of their big concerns. Why are we allowing seven people to tell us what language we could use?”
Ham never gave a clear example of sexual trafficking being present in the statement, but held up a copy of it and argued that it was there and she was sorry if anyone else couldn’t see it.
Fairfield City Attorney John Morrissey said he agreed with Ham’s assertions, but didn’t see anything in the DEI statement that constituted grooming. Then Morrissey gave a winding statement of his own saying the city can’t legally discriminate against trans and gay people since laws and definitions have changed.
“The courts are either trying to stay neutral or they are trying to say that everybody is entitled to some respect for whatever their choice is,” he said.
Morrissey suggested the council add a sentence to the resolution stating the city does not support abuse, grooming, or sex trafficking. He also said Fairfield, home of Maharishi International University, is one of Iowa’s more diverse and tolerant communities.
“We’ve got 80 nationalities, we’ve got every type of biological anomaly as far as a person can take on in this community,” he said. “I think everybody lives a pretty unimpaired life as far as other people not attacking them, other people not going after them as far as their choices.”
Councilperson Doug Flournoy also said he supported Ham’s views. Gandy challenged both of them to provide proof that the statement led to perversion, sexual trafficking, and grooming.
“I’m just asking the question because I’m curious about it because I’m not seeing it,” Gandy said.
“Well, like I said, it’s not grooming—this document itself is not grooming,” Flournoy said.
Gandy again asked Flournoy to present the evidence of grooming on the one-page document. Flournoy said there were other pages. Gandy asked where the other pages were which prompted Flournoy to laugh off the situation.
The council tabled the matter, but the discussion raised alarms for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. The organization released a statement Thursday condemning the council for not approving an anti-discrimination statement since it would just be the city affirming its legal obligations to treat people equally.
“That should not be controversial among city officials,” the ACLU said.
The part of the meeting where the statement of intent was discussed can be viewed here:
Fairfield diversity, equity, and inclusion statement of intent:
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield believes in and stands for values of diversity, equity, fairness, inclusion, and justice; and
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield condemns discrimination based on faith, race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, age, immigration status, military status, class, ability; and
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield welcomes all people and recognizes the rights of individuals to live their lives with dignity; and,
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield will continue to work to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to succeed by making our city services, programs, and public spaces accessible and open to all individuals; and,
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield believes in the public sector for the public good, and advancing equity and inclusion is critical to the success of our communities and our nation.
WHEREAS, the City of Fairfield is committed to leading with respect and acceptance of difference; and,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Fairfield, Iowa, that the City’s commitment to the values of diversity, equity, fairness, inclusion, and justice is hereby reaffirmed.
by Ty Rushing