The Fairfield City Council passed a much-debated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement in a split vote Monday night, but it took a big push from the city’s LGBTQ community to get the innocuous resolution approved.
Alex Thole had not publicly come out as a transgender male, but the Fairfield High School student thought it was important enough to share his story in hopes of swaying the city council to support the statement, which reaffirms rights already protected by law and expresses support for diversity.
“A lot of people gave me a lot of crap for that,” Thole said of being trans at his old school in a nearby town. “People stole my stuff for PE, they bullied me—they would not leave me alone—they would deadname me, misgender me, they would not leave me alone.”
Supporters in attendance wanted the council to pass the original DEI statement crafted by Fairfield’s DEI committee or a modified version by Fairfield Mayor Connie Boyer she drafted before the meeting.
The original 177-word DEI statement was approved on a 4-3 vote after a push from councilperson Paul Gandy. The “no” votes came from councilmembers Judy Ham, Doug Flournoy, and Katy Anderson, who missed the Jan. 10 meeting where the public debate over the statement began.
Thole and other members of Fairfield’s LGBTQ community, as well as their allies, also used Monday’s meeting to correct the record after councilperson Judy Ham previously connected the DEI statement—and LGBTQ people by proxy—to pedophilia and sex trafficking.
“We won’t stand while you equate queer and trans folks to, and I quote, ‘perverts, groomers, and sex traffickers,’” Fairfield resident Hannah Maselli said to Ham. “Many folks here today have spoken to or will speak to science-based proven ways in which that language harms our youth, which you also care deeply about.”
Maselli also read the oath Fairfield City Council members swear to uphold when they take office, which includes following the US and Iowa constitutions. LGBTQ people are a protected class in Iowa law.
“If you cannot follow the law, you cannot uphold your oath,” Maselli said. “However, I hope that we can all move on from this. Offer a public apology to the queer community and let’s all move on together.”
While a majority of speakers were in support of the statement, two Fairfield residents spoke against it. Matthew Rowe compared it to a Trojan Horse and asked the council to be cautious before supporting it. Rick Shaddock openly advocated for discrimination, questioned the value of diversity, and said he was a person of all colors while using a device that spun a rainbow wheel.
“The current proposal, it sounds kind of anti-white; we’re being discriminated against as well,” Shaddock said. “There are people—George Soros and the Communist Party of China—who want to divide and conquer America, set us against each other.”
Before the vote, Fairfield DEI co-chair Adrien Logsdon spoke to the council. She noted nothing in the statement is legally binding but explained why supporting it was important.
“This statement is a very effective way of assuring your constituents that you are willing to uphold the existing anti-discrimination policies that are outlined in your handbook and that an atmosphere of tolerance is a priority to you,” she said.
“We felt that a statement like this was important because our community is full of diversity and, therefore, tolerance and harmony is all the more important.”
by Ty Rushing