The 8th Annual Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ youth drew students and educators from all over the state, and the criticism started long before the event did.
Hundreds of students and educators gathered with one goal in mind, equality for all.
The Annual LGBTQ Conference included several break-out sessions. One dealt with conservative groups, critical of the LGBTQ community.
“The big bad right wing is losing influence, especially when it comes to LGBTQ issues” says Executive Director of Progress Iowa Matt Sinovic.
Earlier this week, The Family Leader, criticized of the conference.
‘This Papa Bear is here to say regarding the Governor`s conference, stop coming after my kids, stop coming after other people`s kids with evil propaganda,” said Vice President of The Family Leader Chuck Hurley on March 28th.
Conference organizers say The Family Leader is being a bully.
In one session, students learned ways to stand up for themselves and educate others.
Rachel Hittner says she is an Ally for her gay friends.
“I care about them and I ended up caring about the cause very deeply so I came here, this is my first time and I’m having a good time and I’m learning a whole lot more about the world then I previously was a few years ago,” says Rachel Hittner from Iowa City.
The conference included 36 sessions all focusing on a range of topics from bullying to legislative issues.
Alex Fraley, a three year veteran of the conference, says the it provides opportunities for everyone.
“It gives people a safe place to just be themselves and go and meet new people and learn new things about the GLBT community, and become more accepting if they`re allies and become of more issues if they`re gay,” says Alex Fraley of Iowa City.
The event also included the first openly gay member of royalty.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India shared his story and the struggles he faced.
Organizers hope speakers like this prepare these students for similar challenges.
“I hope they help themselves develop the self-esteem they need to develop and some of those tools that they may need to survive in high school and the real world after that,” says Organizer Mary Gannon.
800 people attended the event.