Iowa Mayor Didn’t Want to Sign Pride Month Proclamation. Residents Changed His Mind.

Clockwise from left: Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green; Mason, a transgender former Cedar Falls resident; and Laura Tull, a queer parent in Cedar Falls, May 1, 2023.

By Amie Rivers

May 2, 2023

File this one under “yes, it is actually worth speaking up.”

Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green finally agreed on Monday to sign a Pride Month proclamation after dozens of residents spoke out against his initial refusal to do so because of his religious views.

The backstory

It all began when Green received a proclamation from his city’s Human Rights Commission, officially marking June as LGBTQ Pride Month in the city.

Cedar Falls Pride Month Proclamation

Apparently, according to Green, that was the first time the city had considered issuing a proclamation lifting up the LGBTQ communities.

It didn’t sit well with Green, who has served as mayor since 2020 and said he would not be running for re-election in the fall.

He sent a memo to the seven city council members April 21 saying he did “not support or recommend the issuance of this proclamation,” citing “my Christian beliefs” found in the Bible’s New Testament as the reason he would not be signing the proclamation.

Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green’s response to Pride Month proclamation April 21, 2023.

That memo—which was included in the publicly available council packet online prior to their May 1 meeting—began to spread locally on social media among current and former Cedar Falls residents. Many had already expressed concerns about discriminatory bills passing at the state level.

Prominent elected officials like Chris Schwartz, a gay county supervisor, and Danny Laudick, who is running for Cedar Falls mayor, also added their opposition.

“At a time when families with trans children, right here in our community, are having tough conversation about whether or not to flee our state for their safety, Mayor Green decides to dump on them some more instead of showing them that they are welcome, valued and safe here in our community,” Schwartz said in a Facebook post that had more than 100 shares. “This is not leadership; this is hatred and coldness and has no place in our community.”

And it culminated in dozens of residents showing up at the meeting, standing along the wall and filling an overflow room in the back.

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Vast majority call out Green for ‘discrimination’

A total of 37 people spoke against Green’s memo and in support of the proclamation. Another half-dozen or more directly asked for Green’s resignation if he did not sign it—including one council member, Gil Schultz.

“I want Cedar Falls, I want Iowa, I want the United States to not be a place where people don’t feel safe for who they are,” Schultz said. “If the mayor doesn’t sign this, I do say he should resign.”

A wide variety of speakers, from high school and college students to older adults and self-identified straight people to transgender folks, expressed their disappointment in Green’s memo.

“With the amount of hatred we as a community have endured, not only in the state of Iowa both personally and legislatively, but nationwide as well, we do not feel safe,” said Laura Tull, a queer woman and parent in Cedar Falls. “And we now know, with your refusal to sign this proclamation, that we are also not safe in the city of Cedar Falls.”

Mason, a transgender individual and Waterloo resident formerly of Cedar Falls, said they worried Green’s words emboldened hateful messaging from those who would seek to roll back LGBTQ rights.

“There are many queer and trans youth here in the house tonight who have been hearing nothing but legislative violence for the last several months in this state, and are undoubtedly feeling very scared and alone,” Mason said. “I just want you to be aware of the weight that your words hold—especially for the children in your city.”

Speakers also included current and past members of the Cedar Falls Human Rights Commission, former council member Tom Blanford, and Cedar Falls school board member Nate Gruber, all taking Green to task.

“Discrimination should not be considered a Christian virtue,” said the Rev. Dave Kivett, a Human Rights Commission member and pastor at Cedar Heights Community Presbyterian Church.

There were also parents who said their young children were frightened by discriminatory state legislation, and parents who said their adult children were refusing to return to Iowa because of it. They noted Green’s stance was not helpful.

“It breaks my heart that I have three children that will not come visit me here in Iowa, because they do not feel safe,” said Steve Ayers of Cedar Falls. “Passing this resolution and signing it is not going to solve that, but it is one step forward.”

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One speaker against proclamation

Only one person, Forrest Dawkins, spoke in favor of Green’s stance. Dawkins, who has given sermons previously at Cedar Heights Baptist Church, also quoted the Bible as his reasoning.

“I want to show kindness to the LGBT community. That being said, I would like to ask the council not to promote Pride Month,” Dawkins said. “I don’t think we should hold them in extra honor, necessarily.”

Despite a lack of other speakers supporting him, Green maintained his “inbox is filled with messages of people who believe like I do, that are very strongly supportive of the stance I’ve taken.”

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Mayor changes mind

After more than an hour of public comment, Green, in a surprise turnaround, announced he had decided to sign the proclamation, despite his reservations.

“I’m not comfortable signing the proclamation because of my beliefs, which are not gonna change here tonight,” Green said in his closing comments.

“But, looking at some of the comments that were said tonight, I appreciate what’s being said,” he added. “It’s not (that) you’re looking for me to agree—it’s to support the community. … And I think that’s something I really didn’t appreciate before, that I really didn’t take to heart.”

He added his memo wasn’t a result of any outside pressure, just that his own values were in conflict.

“I certainly want people to feel safe in the community,” he said. “I hope that you take my genuineness. I’m not a hateful person.”

Green asked those gathered to email him with more information.

“I’d like to learn from this week,” he said.

And then he dropped the bombshell.

“I would say to Cedar Falls residents: We don’t have to agree to support. We don’t have to agree to care. We don’t have to agree in order to love each other and try to understand each other.

“So, with that, I will sign the proclamation—if it passes,” Green said, to applause in the chamber.

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So the pressure worked?

The proclamation declaring Pride Month passed easily on a 6-1 vote, with only Ward 5 member Dustin Ganfield opposing it.

Current and former Cedar Falls residents posted on social media that they felt vindicated.

“After what was apparently a pretty vocal council meeting … the mayor agreed to sign the proclamation,” wrote Carolyn Ayers on Facebook. “I still don’t think he understands the issues, but he’s done the right thing.”

Others on Twitter agreed, noting the victory, even if small, felt meaningful in the current political climate.

by Amie Rivers
5/2/23

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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