Iowa Civil Rights Commission Revising Guidance on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Public Accommodations

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission plans to revise guidance on how Iowans can comply with the 2007 Iowa amendment adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination law. Recently, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group has challenged 2008 wording from the Commission which gives the false impression that churches must comply with the non-discrimination law in their religious activities and worship services.
The wording from the 2008 brochure refers to church services as if this means worship services. See below:
Iowa Church Case
“A church service open to the public” is the problematic phrase. This wording sounds like the Sunday worship service which for nearly all Christian churches are open to the public. However, Iowa Civil Rights Commission executive director Kristin Johnson told me that the word “services” was drawn from the Iowa statute and refers to economic goods and services and not worship meetings.
In response to public concern over the meaning of the phrase, Johnson told me today that the guidance from the Commission will be revised saying, “We are in the process of revising our publication and appreciate the fact that it was brought to our attention. It has not been the intention of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to mislead anyone with respect to the Commission’s enforcement of the law.”
Johnson also clarified that the guidance brochure published by the Commission has been around since 2008. Earlier, I reported that the brochure was from 2012. However, Johnson said the guidance was written and published in 2008 but had a 2012 date because the brochure was migrated to new digital storage in 2012.
Even with the change in language, Erik Stanley of Alliance Defending Freedom told me today that the lawsuit will continue. He said he believes Iowa’s law is unconstitutional and should be challenged. The churches involved wanted to create facility use policies and ADF believes a lawsuit will help get certainty for them.