Before state senators get down to business each day, they get the chance to speak their minds. Wednesday morning, one senator's comments caused a commotion on the Senate floor.
Friday marks a national day of silence, where students take a vow not to speak as a means of bringing attention to the persecution that gay, lesbian and transgendered people face. Wednesday, a state senator tried to counteract the effort, by using his time on the Senate floor to speak out on the issue.
“It’s always right to stand up on truth and that's what I tried to do,” said Senator Dennis Guth, (R) Hancock. But Senator Guth's speech against homosexuality sparked a chain reaction.
“I was shocked I was hearing what I was hearing out of his mouth,” said Senator Matt McCoy, (D) Des Moines.
Senator McCoy says he felt obligated to respond to Senator Guth's 8-minute-long speech against homosexuality and same sex marriage. “While somebody can’t choose to be gay you certainly can choose not to be ignorant. And what I heard today was ignorant,” said Senator McCoy.
Senator Guth said he wasn’t expecting Senator McCoy’s reaction, “I was offended when he called me basically ignorant.”
McCoy says he was especially shocked when Sen. Guth compared homosexuality to smoking: “Smoking is not good for the person doing the smoking, it’s not good for the person that lives with the smoker who have to experience second hand smoke, and it’s not good for society,” said Sen. Guth, “I think that many of the same things are also true with homosexuality. Those that live around them also suffer.”
“That to me was absurd;” Sen. McCoy said in reaction, “for someone to say that that institution is harmful is very hurtful for someone who has entered into marriage.”
Sen. McCoy says his colleague's words were wrong and the senate floor was the wrong place to deliver them. “I think what Senator Guth should do is apologize. I think Sen. Guth should apologize to Iowans.”
Sen. McCoy said it did feel like a personal attack, but Sen. Guth insisted it wasn’t meant as that.
“I was really not targeting people who have made that lifestyle choice at all. My target is both parents and children so we can make sure that adolescents have information that covers all of the facts and not just part of the story,” said Sen. Guth.
Off the senate floor, the comments continued to spur conversation. Officials with One Iowa said they were shocked and upset with the comments, but they also served as a wakeup call.
“I think we`ve been lulled into a place where we think you know, things are really moving and changing. Which they are, but there are still some people who have not moved and have not changed. I have to wonder where this fear and hatred comes from. One has to wonder who else holds those kinds of feelings and thoughts. We continue to move forward,” said Donna Red Wing from One Iowa.
The family leader declined to do an interview with Channel 13, but in a statement said they support civil discussions about marriage. They did not say whether or not they agreed with Senator Guth's comments this morning. Their statement is as follows:
“The Day of Dialogue is purposed for civil discussion regarding pertinent issues facing Iowans. The institution of marriage is a pertinent issue to Iowans and Americans and is worthy of civil dialogue.”