How Iowa Cities Rank In Support For LGBTQ People


By Nikoel Hytrek

June 2, 2022

Most of Iowa’s major cities are friendly to LGBTQ people, according to a report released by the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization for LGBTQ advocacy.

The annual report measures city non-discrimination laws, city services, the city as an employer, how law enforcement interacts with the LGBTQ community, and whether city leadership is committed to LGBTQ equality.

Below are the ranked scores for nine of Iowa’s major cities:

Dubuque: 100

Elevated view of Dubuque/Shutterstock

Dubuque did miss points in the area of non-discrimination ordinances for city contractors, and for city employment, but those points were made up in having domestic partner benefits for city employees, providing services to LGBTQ youth, and having openly LGBTQ leaders.

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Iowa City: 100

Old Capitol building downtown Iowa City/Shutterstock

No points were docked, and Iowa City received multiple bonus points for city services. Those included youth bullying prevention policies, providing services to LGBTQ youth, older adults, people with HIV or AIDS, and to the transgender community.

Iowa City also got points for having openly LGBTQ leaders.

West Des Moines: 100

Valley Junction in West Des Moines/Starting Line Staff Photo

West Des Moines lost points for not having city non-discrimination laws, but it reaches its 100 score by having bonus points in several areas.

These include having gender-neutral, single-occupancy bathrooms, providing services to LGBTQ youth and older adults, and having a youth bullying prevention policy.

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Davenport: 98


Davenport lost points for non-discrimination ordinances for city contractors, and for having an inclusive workplace.

But it gained points back for a 2020 city ordinance which bans conversion therapy for young LGBTQ people. It became the first city in Iowa to do so, and it protects children from a practice which tries to change their sexuality or gender identity. Multiple studies and organizations have concluded conversion therapy doesn’t work and causes a lot of harm.

Cedar Rapids: 97

Aerial View of Cedar Rapids/Shutterstock

The only hit was for not having an LGBTQ liaison in the city executive’s office. But Cedar Rapids made up some of those points by providing services to LGBTQ youth.

Des Moines: 96

Des Moines/Shutterstock

Most of Des Moines’ docked points stem from the city not having non-discrimination laws in terms of employment, housing and public accommodations. Otherwise, Des Moines scored perfectly in the other categories and made up some points by providing services to LGBTQ youth.

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Ames: 94

Iowa State University in Ames/Shutterstock

Ames lost points for lakcing city non-discrimination ordinances, but it gained points for providing services to LGBTQ youth, and to people with HIV or AIDS. It also got points for having openly LGBTQ leaders.

Sioux City: 79

Aerial view of downtown Sioux City/Shutterstock

Most of Sioux City’s points were docked for non-discrimination laws in the city, not providing trans-inclusive health care benefits for city employees, not having an LGBTQ liaison in the office, not having an inclusive workplace, and positions on LGBTQ equality and the policy efforts of city leadership.

Sioux City gains back some points by providing services to LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness.

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Waterloo: 71


In Waterloo, most points were missed in the area of the city as an employer. There are no trans-inclusive health benefits, no non-discrimination ordinances for city contractors and the city doesn’t have an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace.

There isn’t a liaison in the city executive’s office, either, and the city leadership’s commitment to LGBTQ equality scored only a two out of a possible eight. Waterloo was also docked for the strength of its non-discrimination laws.

The city also didn’t make up any points in other areas. However, Waterloo did elect Nia Wilder, its first openly gay city council last fall.


Nikoel Hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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