DES MOINES, Iowa — US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad spent five hours on the witness stand on Friday at the Polk County Courthouse as a 2012 lawsuit accusing him of discriminating against an openly gay state worker goes to trial.
Chris Godfrey filed the lawsuit in 2012 saying he was retaliated against by Branstad, including slashing his pay, because he is openly gay.
When Branstad re-took office in 2011, he asked numerous department heads of state agencies appointed by his predecessor, Chet Culver, to resign. Godfrey was serving as the state’s Workers Compensation Commissioner at the time. He had two years left on his term and refused to step down.
Governor Branstad responded to that refusal by slashing Godfrey’s salary by $40,000 per year. In his lawsuit Godfrey claims Branstad did so because Godfrey is gay.
On the witness stand Friday Branstad admitted that Godfrey had been given nothing but positive job reviews. However Branstad says he had heard from business groups, business owners and major campaign donors that Godfrey had a tendency to rule in favor of employees over employers in disputes. That is what lead him to seek Godfrey’s resignation.
Branstad says he was well within his legal rights to cut Godfrey’s salary. He says sexual orientation never entered into the conversation.
Branstad testified that he supports “LGBT” rights. However he was unable to explain what “LGBT” stood for.
He was also pressed on his public support for gay pride. When asked in he’d ever attended a pride event, Branstad responded that he has hosted an event at his Beijing residency. However he says he never attended any pride events when he served as governor.
The former governor did admit that his feelings on same-sex marriage have evolved over time and he no longer opposes it. However he says he’s never discriminated based on sexual orientation.