Students Learn About Local, National Issues at LGBTQ Conference

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Big issues, both in Iowa and across the country were on the minds of people at a conference in Des Moines.

The Annual Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth is designed to give students support and resources to help them face challenges in their lives.

What students hoped to take from the conference depends on who you ask.

"I hoped to hear about other people's experiences because at our school, only so many people are out. Here, the majority of people are out or coming out,” said Jadyn Brockway, an 8th grade student in Johnston.

One thing every student had in common is the things they have seen in their schools.

"I was the weird smart kid. Growing up, yeah, there was a little bit of bullying,” said Nick Miller, a sophomore at North Polk High School.

"People in the hallways will discriminate, say slurs, and just be pure hateful,” said Brockway.

Bullying and how to stand up to it was a focus at the conference. It's also an issue being addressed under the gold dome.

"Senate File 345 which is the “bully bill” does something really important, which is the bully prevention work group that would be formed,” said Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools.

While bullying legislation remains on the table in Iowa, a keynote speaker who has had ties to both Republicans and Democrats addressed key issues in other states.

Jimmy LaSalvia is an openly gay former GOP activist who left the party a year ago claiming some members were not open to change in America.

"America today includes gay people,” said LaSalvia.

Just this week, the governors of Indiana and Arkansas signed religious freedom legislation that created uproar across the county.

LaSalvia says he was relieved to see people fight back.

"It's very hard for the anti-gay crowd to make an argument that they shouldn't be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs when they have made the argument for decades that gay people shouldn't be protected from discrimination,” LaSalvia told Channel 13 News.

Ten years ago, the conference started with just a couple hundred students, but has grown to more than 1,000 with kids coming from all over the Midwest.

All 1,000 kids appeared in a "selfie" that organizers sent to Democrat and Republican members of the Iowa House of Representatives.

The House is currently taking up the bullying bill that the senate passed earlier this week.